CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number . . . .June 19, 2015
Part of a series of three books written for a young Celtic audience, Introducing Mr. B.: The Farmer Collection strives to share some of the poetry and thoughts of Robert Burns. Four short stories comprise this book. “Bug Off!” tells how two brothers spot a bug on the hat of a lady at church. “The Farmer and the Field Mouse” relates the different thoughts of a man and a mouse. “The Farmer’s Favourite Old Horse” tells of the special treatment the horse receives and why. “The Day My Pet Died” reveals how a boy who innocently caused his sheep’s death is then allowed to look after more.
Although this self-published collection of short stories was intended for children ages 6-8, the style and sentence structure would be very challenging for that age group. The pages are filled with long-winded thoughts which could confuse young readers. With the exception of “Bug Off!”, the stories are slow-moving and have limited action. They consist of monologues or of two people in conversation. The vocabulary is also far beyond the intended age group. Words like ‘sympathy’, ‘companion’, ‘plummeted’ and ‘fickle’ would hamper the free-flowing readability of the text.
The format is designed well for young readers. The text is large and double-spaced with simple black line drawings inserted where they complement the story. The cover with its tartan borders and the small pictures of the title pages offer the only color. At the back of the book, there is a collection of poems written by Robert Burns. Luckily every line has its interpretation right below it. Each poem relates to one of the short stories in the collection. For example “To a Louse” inspired “Bug Off!”.
The concept of writing stories inspired by the poems of Robert Burns in order to share the Celtic culture is unique and creative. However, the young audience of today would not be enticed to pick this book up. The writing style is not going to spark and keep their interest. Perhaps this is a book for Celtic farm families to share with their wee ones, but school libraries will want to spend their funds elsewhere.
Sherry Faller is a retired teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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