Thursday, November 16, 2006
For Children's Book Week -- Paradise author tells some Scottish tales
By DAN BARNETT
Children's books seem to be pouring from T.E. Watson's pen. The prolific Paradise author is just out with two Scottish stories.
The folk tale (told to him by his Gran) is called "The Man Who Spoke With Cats" ($18.95 in hardcover); the fairy tale is "Glen Robbie" ($22.95 in hardcover). Both are published by Highlands Children's Press and both are full of colorful and captivating pictures from master artist Steve Ferchaud.
Watson is proud of his heritage. The biography on his Web site (www.tewatsononline.com) says that "his DNA hails from the beautiful city of Elgin, Scotland, about 40 miles east of Inverness, Scotland. Which is surrounded with a multitude of historic Scottish landmarks ... the famous Loch Ness, the battlefield of Culloden Moor ... the Fairy Glen."
For research on Robert Louis Stevenson, a fellow Scot, the Web site notes that Watson received the title "FSA Scot" from the Society of Scottish Antiquaries.
"The Man Who Spoke With Cats" is a simple story of an old man named MacGregor whose companions, four talkative cats, are Little Face, Cleo, Tavish and Blue Eyes. Tavish asks MacGregor what he'll be doing on festival day. The man replies, with a twinkle in his eye, "I am going to visit friends. I will have my fill of bangers and mash, and then take a ride on the roundabout atop the tall white horse with the golden bridle." (A glossary points out that bangers and mash are sausage and mashed potatoes, and a roundabout, if you haven't guessed, is a merry-go-round.)
So what will the cats do? Little Face has a big day ahead: "My day," she tells MacGregor, "will be spent in the barley chasing midgies (large mosquitoes) and hunting mice." The rest had a big day of rest lined up, but, after MacGregor had gone for the festivities, the cats noticed that Blue Eyes, the Siamese, had disappeared. Therein, of course, lies a tale -- or tail, about caring for others who may have been forgotten.
"Glen Robbie" mixes in common Scottish words with a fairy story (again, a glossary in the back explains all). "On the anniversary of ten thousand moons," the story begins, "deep in the Highlands of Scotland, a wondrous wee village called Glen Robbie appears, but no one knows exactly where or exactly when. It is a magical place. There are the tallest trees, the greenest fields, and lochs so clear you can see tae the bottom."
On a certain day the fairy village appears and the Elder gathers all the denizens for their mission, to help someone from the outside. "Come down, come down, come down from the trees! / Come down from the branches and out from the leaves! / Today is the day tae fly with all speed / Tae find someone helpless, someone in need." There is some urgency in all this. The fairy folk have to find a human in need and help that person or, "if we dinnae find someone, Glen Robbie will vanish never tae be seen again."
What follows is the story of Kera and Podwink, Angus the West Highland White Terrier, and two human children. And, oh, yes, a hungry fox. Angus and the fox don't exactly see eye-to-eye and in the end the children have quite a story to tell their Gran. And Glen Robbie "peacefully faded away intae the evening mist and disappeared from sight." But, thanks to Kera, it will be back.
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books, please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2006 Chico Enterprise-Record. Used by permission.