HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Harp O’ Gold: An Original Tale
Author: Teresa Bateman
Illustrator: Jill Weber
Publisher: Holiday House, republished in 2001
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Bateman, Teresa. Harp O’ Gold: An Original Tale (published in 2000 by Holiday House). When our boys were learning to read, we liked to check “living books” out of the library to give them extra reading practice and to accompany their various studies, such as those related to holidays. In this original tale that goes well with St. Patrick’s Day, a poor boy named Tom has always dreamed of being a minstrel. Achieving his goal of becoming a talented harp player, he does not acquire the riches he had envisioned, playing for folks who can only pay him with flour or apples. Despairing over his lot, Tom receives a visit from a leprechaun named Sean O’Dell, “a man of very short stature,” who offers him a harp made of gold. So dreaming of wealth and fame, he trades his beloved but worn harp for the new one. Tom gains entry to the finest homes and becomes famous.
However, while the golden harp lives up to its promise of money, its false, tinny sound bothers the music lover in Tom. He knows that something is missing. Then, when the king so admires the harp that he imprisons Tom as his personal musician, the hero knows things have gone too far. This satisfying and well-crafted story of dreams and desires told in a folktale style emphasizes how people can become blinded by appearances, with its message of being true to one’s self and not thinking that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. One might say that there’s a wee bit o’ Irish magic in author Teresa Bateman’s pleasantly paced text and Jill Weber’s vibrant acrylic and watercolor compositions of an almost Grandma Moses-like quality with plenty of Irish green. Young readers will quickly pick up on the simple but resonant lessons which Tom learns about true riches and heart’s desires, and they will enjoy the humor too.