Kathy Tucker's The Leprechaun in the Basement
Illustrated by John Sandford
Children's book review by Suzanne Holland
Imagine how you would react if you were going down to your dank basement, maybe to throw in a load of laundry, or to kick the noisy furnace, and you stumble upon a leprechaun! “Jackpot!” you’d think, “gold for life!” That is the reaction young Michael McKeever has when he encounters a wily wee one.
The Leprechaun in the Basement by Kathy Tucker is a refreshing twist on most Irish themed books for children. There are no unicorns nor rainbows, no happy tiny folk playing tricks. Instead, we meet O’Leary, the most cantankerous leprechaun this side of Ireland. Indeed, O’Leary came from Ireland, hidden away in a steamer trunk. He remembers that a long time ago in Ireland, he had a job of some sort, but the exact memory has faded in a gray Chicago mist. Now he makes his home in the basement of Michael McKeever and his family.
This story has a decidedly contemporary feel, as Mr. McKeever is unemployed. “He lost his job at the computer company, and Michael’s mom said they had to Make Do.” Making do is especially hard on Michael, for baseball season is right around the corner, and he desperately needs new cleats. How can he ask for the money, when Dad is so gloomy he won’t even play catch in the backyard?
This is the sad state of affairs when Michael discovers O’Leary living in the recycling bin. O’Leary’s redheaded temper flares when Michael demands the gold coins O’Leary has been hoarding. Turn over his gold? Not on your life!
Arguing, insults, raised voices; why, a basement has never heard such goings-on! And, the most potent question of all, how will Michael ever get those new cleats?
John Sandford’s soft and detailed illustrations perfectly capture the range of emotions and the wistful yearnings of a young boy.
The story concludes with an unexpected but deeply satisfying plot twist.
I have read this book often, and it is a crowd pleaser, although the story line might be a bit too complicated for preschoolers.
The Leprechaun in the Basement by Kathy Tucker is certain to bring luck, any time of the year!
Read more of Suzanne's reviews.
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