CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number . . . .June 19, 2015
Introducing Mr. B.: The Friends Collection is a collection of four short stories: “The Environment Club”, “No Kidding”, “The Horse Thief” and “Working People”. The stories are written for middle readers, and the inspiration for them is based on poems by the Scottish national poet, Robert Burns. The stories are derived from Burns’ poems: “Humble Petition of Bruar Water”, “Epistle to a Young Friend”, “O Heard Ye of a Silly Harper”, and “Is there for Honest Poverty”. The Friends Collection is one of three Introducing Mr. B. books written by Norman Thomson who was born in Scotland and moved to Canada as a young adult. Thomson's passion for Robert Burns and his works comes through in this series. Other titles include the Farmer Collection and the Battle Collection.
Each story begins with a few lines of poetry which serves as the inspiration for the narrative. At the end of the book, following the four stories, each poem appears in full. A modern interpretation for each line of poetry is also provided in parentheses and italics underneath each line. The interpretations are a valuable feature because it makes Burns’ poetry accessible to a younger generation.
The overall production quality of the book is quite low. The format and presentation detract from the book and send mixed messages about the intended audience. The early reader style of the book and the illustrations by Nicholas Lennox are best suited for younger audiences, but the stories and vocabulary will appeal to middle readers.
This book’s strength is in the original Robert Burns poetry and the interpretations. This would be an excellent resource for librarians or teachers wishing to create a program or lesson to celebrate Robert Burns Day in January, but it may be lacking wider appeal.
Recommended with Reservations.
Kerri Hutchinson is a library technician with the Region of Waterloo in Waterloo, ON.
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