Thursday, August 7, 2008

Leprechauns, Death, and a pirate named Fluffy

Thanks to a little blurb in the BYU Magazine a year or so ago highlighting BYU grad Teresa Bateman, we have discovered a new favorite children's author at our house. Her whimsical stories are delightful for children, and she often uses clever wordplay and unexpected twists that make them a treat for parents too.

A hands down favorite for my kids is Fluffy, Scourge of the Sea. This story features a pampered poodle, Fluffy, who falls into the hands of pirates. He uses his wits and talents to not only save his life, but ends up overthrowing the pirate captain and instituting a new regime. The illustrations by Michael Chesworth are as humorous as the rhyming verse, with details that keep my kids poring over the pages.

I instantly fell in love with Keeper of Soles. While the subject of Death coming to get you may be a bit macabre for young children, Bateman's characteristic good humor is imbued into every page. Colin is a cobbler who has great talent and a generous heart. When Death comes to his door one night to claim his soul, Colin notices his bare feet and distracts him by offering to make him a pair of sandals. When the sandals are finished he moves on to boots, sneakers, and so forth, succeeding in staving off Death's claim for years to come. The illustrations by Yayo with their repeating shoe motif add to the humor of the story and provided giggles for my kids when some of the text went over their heads. The story ends with a clever twist and satisfying resolution, making it worth reading over again.

A Plump and Perky Turkey is another example of Bateman's flair for snappy rhymes. (And the title? I dare you to not use it this Thanksgiving!) This story features a town with a serious problem: At Thanksgiving time, all of the local turkeys make themselves scarce. To lure one to town, the townspeople decide to hold an arts and crafts fair featuring turkey art, which will (of course) require a live model. When Pete -- a very plump and perky turkey -- answers their ad, things don't go exactly as planned, but the silly ending is fitting and engenders a new appreciation for shredded wheat!

Many of Bateman's stories have Irish themes. While I don't like the illustrations in Leprechaun Gold, the story and narrative voice are delightful. Donald O'Dell is an honest man whose only disappointment in life is not having a wife and family. When he saves a leprechaun's life and refuses the reward of leprechaun gold, the leprechaun finds a more creative way to repay him for his good deed and brings Donald lasting happiness that far outweighs worldly prosperity. It's a sweet story that lacks some of the quick wit of her others', but has a deeper meaning instead. And the delightful Irish lilt in the narrative voice makes it a lot of fun to read out loud!

April Foolishness and Will You Be My Valenswine? both fall into the "cute" category. So far I've only read one of hers that I didn't like. Traveling Tom and the Leprechaun starts out as a cute story but ends with a slightly negative tone that I didn't care for. Even more unsettling were the illustrations, though I can't really put my finger on why they creeped me out. Of course, that isn't the author's fault, but the two combined to give it a thumbs down from me.

But with so many other successes, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Teresa Bateman's work. And checking my library's online catalog, I see that she has a lot more we need to try!


  1. I love new picture book suggestions! It's going on the library holds list right now.

  2. We just got "Fluffy" yesterday and it was really cute! The turkey book is still in the pile, waiting to be read.
    What's up with Bateman's picture in the back flap? It's like a really bad high school yearbook photo. Yikes.

  3. I'm glad we haven't turned in "Fluffy" yet because I had to go check and see what picture you're talking about. Yikes! I laughed out loud! Either she has no self-respect or she has such an abundance of it that she thought that would be a good joke!