See John Run
Or, Baby's First Shep-whump
This is John. Let's all say hello to John. Hello, John! Oh, that wasn't a very good hello. Let's say it louder and all join in this time. Hello, John!
John lives in Atlantis. Have any of you been to Atlantis? What, you have, Joshua? Really? I don't think you have, because Atlantis doesn't really exist except in storybooks, and that means that you, Joshua, are lying. Do you know what happens to little boys who lie? Yes, that's right. They go to prison. It isn't very nice in prison, is it? I'll tell you all about prison next week.
Let's turn over the page and see what John's doing. Oh, look, he's just had a shower. Isn't his hair silly, all wet and sticky up? He's just wearing a towel. A very big towel. The grown-up word for a towel that big is "disappointing." Oh, this isn't a lift-the-flap book is it? Agh. No. In a minute, though, he's going to drop the towel and he's going to have nothing on at all. Yes, that's right, Charlotte. You're right to giggle. We'll be able to see his bottom.
Oh. The illustrator hasn't shown us that bit. I want to teach you a new word, children. Im-aj-in-ay-shun. That is what I am using now.
Oh! Where was I? Sorry, children, I was just…um… thinking of something else. Let's get back to the story.
Here's John again. Unfortunately he's all dressed now. And this lady is Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a bit like a teacher, and John has to do what she says, although he's sometimes naughty and doesn't do it, and then he has to sit on the naughty step until he's good again. "John," she says, "I want you to go shopping for me today. I want you to buy these things: one real live Ancient, two new allies, three nuclear bombs, four zero point modules, and don't forget the tava beans."
"Can my friends come, too?" John asks.
"Yes," says Elizabeth, "but try not to bother Mr Genii next door - you know how he gets."
So John goes off to find his friends. I wonder where they're hiding in this picture. Can you see his friends hiding in this picture? (And now they give us a lift-the-flap picture. Hmph!)
Oh! I think I can see something here, sticking out from behind the curtain. Do you think this could be one of John's friends? Shall we lift the flap? Oh, it's just Kavanagh, writing a sneaky report. He's not one of John's friends, is he? Let's slam the flap shut. If we're lucky, we'll hurt his nose.
What about this… Oh! Can you see something, Danny? Where? Behind those cushions? Let's see. Oh! You're right! It's Teyla, meditating. Hello, Teyla!
Can anyone see anyone else? Ooh, I think I can. Look at this thing over here. It looks like a pile of old clothes with a dirty mop on the top. Do you think it's really a pile of old clothes with a dirty mop on the top? What do you think it really is? A giant? Yes, it could be a giant, Alice, yes. Well, let's have a look, shall we? Oh! It's Ronon! No, Jason, don't cry. He's not a scary giant. No, of course he won't come and eat you after you've gone to bed. It's the Wraith that'll do that, not Ronon. In fact, they're probably going to come tonight and EAT YOU ALL UP, because you've all been very naughty today.
No, don't cry. Can anyone see any more of John's friends? What about this, sticking out from under that console. It looks like a foot. Let's give this little tab a pull, shall we? Oh! It's John's other friend, Rodney! I wonder why he was hiding under the console. He looks a bit of a scaredy, doesn't he? Silly Rodney, to be scared of going shopping with John. What could possibly go wrong on a simple shopping trip?
Let's turn over the page. Here they are, walking through the Gate Room. Look how the illustrator has shown them all from behind. What colour is John wearing? That's right: black. Are his clothes baggy or tight? Yes, tight. Look at that gun holster thing, with the straps hugging his thigh, so snug and so close to his... And look at that cute little knife, flopping right over his… Oh! This isn't a touch-and-feel book, is it? It's isn't? Oh. Shame.
Can you see this funny-looking thing over there in the picture? It's a Stargate. No, Ellie, not a stairgate, a Stargate. A Stargate is a special sort of door that lets you go to far away places. Why don't you try walking into mirrors and walls when you get home? If you're really lucky, you might find a Stargate. There's a wormhole behind the Stargate. Does anyone like playing with worms? Worms go wiggle wiggle, don't they? Can you go wiggle wiggle like a worm? Why don't you do that for a while, while I look at this picture of John from behind, and imagine that he's going wiggle wiggle. I'm just… er… studying the illustrator's use of colour and tone.
What? You're bored with being a worm? Huh! Kids today! It was only ten minutes. Well, let's follow John and his friends through the Stargate. We can't see what happens next, because they all break into little tiny pieces and go through the giant wormhole… No, Stephen, there aren't any mutant killer worms and there isn't any blood and gore, and, yes, I know you like blood and gore, but, really, you're only four, and I think we should turn the page now and move swiftly on.
Hmm… Mutant killer worms. Blood and gore. Fic idea coming on…
Um… Sorry. Where was I?
John and his friends have reached the planet where the shops are. No, Stephen, there's no blood yet, but I hope there will be soon. I mean, I'm sure there won't ever be any blood. "Which way shall we go?" John says.
"The sun is shining," Teyla says, "and the grass is green. I see trees over there, and I cannot see any sign directing us to the shops." Teyla likes to state the obvious.
"Want to shoot things," says Ronon. Oh, look! There are flaps all over his picture. (Why does this illustrator keep making it a lift-the-flap book only when it doesn't matter?) Shall we lift them up and see what's underneath? A look, a knife! And what's under this one? A knife! And this one… A knife! And this one… A knife! What about this one… A knife! That's a silly place to keep a knife, isn't it? It's rather silly to keep anything there, isn't it? And what do you think's under this flap? What was that, Harry - a kitten? No, it's three knives. Shall we count all the knives? One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Eight knives! Ronon is silly, isn't he?
Rodney's going to say something now. Now, children, there's this funny thing about the way Rodney talks. He says lots of long sciency words that are not yet in your vocabulary. He also insults people a lot, and I don't think your mummies and daddies would like it if I let you hear his insults. He also likes to talk lots and lots, and there isn't room in the story to tell you everything he says. So here's an idea. Whenever Rodney says something, I'm going to take some words out of this little bag here labelled "random McKay words" instead.
"Here's genius doom," says Rodney.
Look! Here's John giving Rodney a swat on the head. I wonder why he's doing that? Yes, Danny? Your mummy and daddy swat each other like that because they love each other very much, and then they go and lock themselves in their bedroom for a long time to talk.
Ellie? You think John's a big bully and isn't very nice at all and needs to get spanked.
Charlotte? You think John and Rodney are best friends and should play fairies or ponies together in the playground, like you do with Alice?
Well, shall we find out what happens next? John looks confused, doesn't he? "I can't remember what I'm supposed to be buying," he says. "One real-life accident, two new allies, three nuclear bumps, four-zero pointing mules? One life-threatening accident, two new enemies, three bruises and bumps, forty pointy moles…"
"You appear to have forgotten the shopping list," says Teyla.
"Want to shoot things," says Ronon.
"Invulnerable whales," says Rodney.
"Let's go that way!" says John. He and his friends start walking, but suddenly - oh no! - John falls down a hole! Oh no! I wonder what's going to happen to him! Shall we turn the page and find out?
Oh, look. Ronon has caught him and stopped him from falling to his doom. (What's doom? "Doom" is another word for teddy bear, Jason.) What a shame! I mean, phew, what luck! Clever Ronon. "If Ronon had not caught you, you would have been very badly hurt," Teyla says.
"Me hypoglycaemic cat idea," says Rodney.
Doesn't John look happy! "One life-threatening accident," he says. "Elizabeth will be pleased. Now for the new enemies."
"Hellbent coffee destruction," Rodney says.
But, look, who's this on the next page? Shall I tell you? This is Timmy. Timmy's normally a really good boy, but this morning someone rather bad whispered in his ear. The bad person is called an author. "I want you to go and bop John on the head for no reason at all," said the author, "because we don't need no stinking motivation." The author also taught Timmy a silly poem to say. It went something like this:
"Shep whump, Shep whump, Shep whump - yay!
Whump that Shep both night and day."
What a funny poem that is! Do you think you can say it, children? Well done! Now, I want you to say that every day. I want you to learn it. And then, when you grow up, you can join a special grown-up club and you will be able to do this special grown-up thing called Shep whump which is even better than ice-cream.
So here's Timmy hitting John with a big stick. Oh, and here's Ronon sitting on Timmy's chest. What a lot of tomato sauce there is all over the place! I think John and Timmy must have been really sleepy, because they've both got their eyes shut.
"I think we ought to return home now," says Teyla.
"Want to shoot things," says Ronon.
"Inconceivable arrogant demise," says Rodney. "Voodoo citrus. No!"
Oh, look, Ronon is carrying John. How silly! You don't carry people unless they're babies. What happens when you wake up a baby who's asleep. That's right - they cry. Hey, I know! Shall we all go "boo!" really loudly and see if we can wake John up. Maybe he'll cry. One, two, three, BOO!
Oh! Look what you've gone and done, you naughty children! You've gone and woken up Mr Genii next door. You're going to be in trouble now. I can see Kolya coming. Kolya's a special person. He's John's nemesis. Nemesis is a grown-up word meaning "best friend." He's brought lots of other friends with him, and - look! - they're hugging Rodney and Ronon and Teyla because they like them so much. You can tell that Kolya likes John the best of all, because they're playing dressing up together. I think they must be playing ponies, because he's putting some rope in John's mouth… Or maybe they're playing Egyptian mummies because now he's wrapping bits of him up.
Do you like playing let's pretend? What games would you play if you and John were alone together…?
…Oh, where was I?
Shall we leave them here for ever and ever and close the book. Go on, shall we? Then we can imagine months and months of off-camera torment at the hands of Kolya, we'll get lots of tearful readers begging for a sequel, and we'll feel really important and powerful. ("Torment" is a grown-up word meaning marshmallows and "sequel" is a grown-up word meaning chocolate cake.)
Oh dear. Too late. We dithered for too long. Ronon's not being hugged any more. He's thumping all of Kolya's friends. Look! More tomato sauce. So much tomato sauce that we can't really see what's happening. John's gone red all over, like a funny tomato monster man. Kolya and his friends look as if they're pretending to be tomato soup. That's a silly game!
"Run for the Gate!" says Teyla.
"I shot things," says Ronon.
"Eat disturbing trust," says Rodney.
They're running for the Gate. Look! Kolya's chasing them, Timmy's chasing them, and lots of baddies who didn't get a chance to appear in the book are chasing them, and the kitchen sink is chasing them, and even the author's chasing them. Let's listen carefully and hear what the author's saying. What's that? "No, you can't get away, not before I've whumped you for at least six more chapters?" What a funny thing to say!
Run, run, John! Run, Ronon! Run, Rodney! Run, Teyla! See John run. Run, John, run!
Rumpeta, rumpeta, stomp stomp stomp go the others. Cackle cackle says the author.
Phew! It's okay! They made it through the Gate.
But - uh-oh! There's Elizabeth. She doesn't look pleased with John, does she? "You forgot the tava beans," she says. "You're a bad boy, John. I'm going to send you back to Earth and replace you with Caldwell."
I wonder what that means. It sounds better than the naughty step, though. I wonder why John's fast asleep on the floor of the Gate Room, all covered with tomato sauce. It's really naughty, isn't it, to get tomato sauce all over things. Bad John! Bad! Let's all thump John really really hard because he's bad. Ooh, yes, well done, Stephen. Kicking him works well, too. And stabbing him with a pencil. Well done, Jamie. What about crumpling the page so his body goes all mangled? Scribble all over… No, not the face! Not the face!
"Reconfigure Ancient lunch," says Rodney. "Idiot colonel!"
And that, children, is the end of the story.
For parents and teachers: Ideas for extention activities
1. Make a whumpable John puppet
This is a cross-curricular activity, with links both to art and craft and to literacy. Get the children to make a John puppet, as below. (Templates can be provided, though older and more able children can design their own.) Once the puppet is made and decorated, get children to throw their puppet casually on the floor to see how the limbs end up. (The correct word for this is "his limbs at a sickening angle", or "lying on the floor like a discarded rag doll.") They must then make up a story that explains how he got that way.
Grown-up writers might find this activity useful in combating writer's block. Additional story ideas may be obtained by dropping household objects on the puppet and seeing where they land. For example, a needle landing on the thigh could mean a stab wound, and a match on the arm could denote a traumatic encounter with fire.
(Care needs to be taken in the presence of pets and babies, unless drool, slobber and rending jaws is a desired effect. It is hard to see what story could be prompted by your John puppet being shredded and turned into hamster bedding, for example.)
This is a version of the traditional game of Battleship, in which players try to find the hidden knives on Ronon.
Inspired by the random McKay word generator, play a few games of Madlantislibs with your children. This game provides the opportunity to gently introduce children to the parts of speech. Here are some extracts from past games played in the classrooms of the world:
"Exfoliate!" giggled Rodney, as he bounced fluffily towards the Stargate.
John was firing his sausage messily into the llama. Ronon flirted, flowers spurting from his fingers. Teyla purred, waving her turnips. The Genii were cuddling coyly, and cup-cakes trampolined around John's feet. He felt horrible laughter as one of them hit him on the elbow. Treacle exploded from his nose, and he danced prettily to the ground and scribbled still.
John was sprouting on the bed, as pale as a buttercup. There were books all over him, even down his pants. Carson killed the book that fed puppies into his toes.
"Is he going to be horrid?" Rodney declaimed. "Oh no! He's going to frolic, isn't he?"
"I don't know," growled Carson, in a babyish voice.
Ronon bullied his fist into the monster. Teyla was trying not to explode. Elizabeth kicked John's ear. "Please don't frolic, John. We hate you."
Okay. I really had no intention of doing a sequel, since I think that "less is more" when it comes to comedy, but I did relent enough to write this impromtu not-sequel sequel in response to someone on LJ who asked very nicely:
Have any of you been to the doctor before? You have? You all have? And you were sick all over his floor, Charlotte? How nice. No, Stephen, we don't want to see under the sticky-plaster. It was orange with lumps in, was it, Jamie? No. No! I think we've heard quite enough about your various illnesses. Let's hear some more about Carson.
Carson's Scottish. Do you know what that means? What was that, Alice? He doesn't wear any underwear? Why do you say that? Oh yes! What does a Scotsman wear under his kilt, and all that. Well, Alice, I'm fairly sure that Carson does indeed wear underwear, but since this one isn't a lift-the-flap book either, we can't check.
No, Carson comes from a place called Scotland. This means that he says things like "hoots!" and "och aye!" and things like that, but I'm not very good at accents, I'm afraid, so I'll afraid he'll just have to sound English, like everyone else in all the stories I read.
Carson is having a very busy day. Let's look at the pictures and see what he's been doing. Here he's putting a plaster on someone's poorly toe. Here he's tucking a lady up in bed. Here he's giving someone an injection. What, Joshua? You got an injection in the bottom? (Let's pause for sniggers, shall we?) I don't think Carson does that to grown up men and ladies in Atlantis, and if he did, we wouldn't see it.
Oh look! In this picture Carson's doing foul and unnatural genetic experiments on a captured prisoner without its knowledge - but it's okay, children, because it's just a Wraith. ("Foul and unnatural genetic experiments on a captured prisoner without is knowledge " is a grown-up expression meaning that he's inviting it to a party.)
Oh! Who's this coming in the door? It's John. Do you remember John? You know, the story I read yesterday? The story you all loved and said "again! again!" after I'd finished it? Er… anyone? Yes, Stephen, that's right. John was the one who got covered with blood - I mean, tomato sauce.
Well, I think this story must be something of a sequel, because here's Rodney and Ronon and Teyla carrying John in to see Carson.
Actually, I told a teeny little lie to you yesterday, just to stop you getting nightmares. It wasn't tomato sauce. Stephen's right: it was blood. John isn't a very well boy. He's a bit poorly, but I'm sure Carson can make him a well boy again.
"John is hurt," Teyla says.
"I shot things," says Ronon.
"Terrible quiet working," says Rodney.
"Bloody hell!" says Carson. No, Ellie, that's not swearing. It's not a naughty thing to say. John is bloody, isn't he? And that nice priest who came to visit our pre-school last week said the word "hell", didn't he? I think it's a completely okay think to say, and you should all say it at home tonight.
He's Carson taking John away into a special "get better" room. I wonder what those tubes are. Um.. Perhaps we'd better turn over the page quickly. And the next page. And the next… These infirmary scenes do go on rather, don't they? Rodney, Ronon, Teyla… hovering… looking worried… Carson rubbing his eyes… Tubes in unnatural places…
Oh, look! It's the last page. John's all better again. Everyone does look happy, don't they? Well done, Carson! Let's all give Carson a big clap. Yay for Carson. Yay!
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