Molly's Reviews

Kathy Gogolewski
Wings ePress

Interesting Read ... Recommended ... 3 stars

The narrative opens as seven-year-old Michael endeavors to ignore Nicole, but there she. Again his sister came barging into his room to insist again that his Grandfather has died. Impossible, Gankum would never have gone away and left him, especially without saying goodbye. But, here she is, and she just won’t stop saying it. Michael has a plan, he will make a baby brother or sister from a potato. He did hear Mama telling Nicole that special babies come from special potatoes. Nicole can only roll her eyes at the suggestion. Michael is not surprised when Gankum steps into his room, after all, his grandfather isn’t dead to Michael. Gankum often comes to chat with Michael when the seven year old is alone in his room. Armed with Mama’s overheard recipe/formula of rosebud for girl, walnut for boy, rainwater, peach fuzz and more Michael accompanies Mama to the store to get a perfect potato. Nicole warns Michael that the magic will only work if he follows the formula exactly, and, he must not spill any of it on anything. Michael is horrified to find a few drops of the formula has spilled on the mirror laying next to the container where he has placed his potato. From there the story builds as Michael and Nicole and their parents are caught up in the little boys imagination and surprising power. With the help of Tato, the potato being Michael has invoked Michael and Nicole come to grips with life as it is including the need for acceptance of the death of a beloved grandfather.

'Tato' is offered as a children’s book targeting the 7-13 age market and is written in part to help children deal with death. The action packed tale of Michael and Tato and how Michael is finally able to adjust to the death of his grandfather presents a number of solid scientific facts. Habits of insects and spiders, and mirror image are compelling. The real is mixed with imaginary happenings. The tale presented in a fast paced setting where danger lurks at every turn. I believe the book is better suited to the 10 –13 market than younger children who may well be frightened by some of the chilling details of the mirror and critters within.

The notion that a seven-year-old would be having problems dealing with the death of a beloved grandfather is credible, and the notion that the child sees himself as larger than life and able to overcome evil is a trait well developed in children this age. Writer Gogolewski’s characterization of Michael is believable, her rendering of Nicole as the bored teeny-bopper is also well done. I was a little put off by the seeming fog the Tate parents operate in during the account. Papa Tate did redeem himself in my eyes a bit when he sat down to chat with Michael about Gankum’s death, however, I would hope most parents would be more aware of the stress their young child was feeling than what appeared with Mama and Papa Tate.

I like the notion of empowering children, however, seven-year-olds are often very unaware of their limitations and can be easily encouraged into dangerous situations in which they are not able to cope. I would like to see the author encourage the notion of power, but also keep it in the realm of this story is imagination, not as a mirror world that might actually take place. The line between real and make believe may be blurry for a young child.

As parents we DO tease our children now and then about finding them under a rock, out in the cabbage patch, or maybe even developing them with a special formula from potatoes. On the other hand, thirteen-year-old Nicole and Mama chatting about potatoes and being overheard by Michael set in place the focus for the story to follow. Mama appears clueless when Mike wants a potato, and other ‘formula’ items…. Yegods, it was her formula. And I don’t know a thirteen-year-old who does not know where babies come from. I would like to have seen the writer present the chat with some chuckles rather than in such a way that a seven-year-old might take it for fact.

The issue of the notion of Santa Claus being an untruth is also addressed in the work. For this reason I will not use the book in my own fourth grade and cannot recommend for children K – 4. As a teacher I have found; the younger the child the more we find belief in Santa, and even in my own fourth grade, 9 –10 year olds, last year the belief was split just about half… as a teacher that is an issue NOT for me to decide. Santa and other similar beliefs are between parent and child and not for me to agree or destroy.

'Tato' will likely tickle the fancy of the ‘sophisticated’ upper middle grade reader.

Recommended for the upper middle grade reader, not recommended for the 7 – 9 set.




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© 2006 by Molly Martin