Review of Tata and the Big Bad Bull by Holly Johnson

This cute children’s story is perfect for a read-aloud or beginning readers. It is a story of determination and overcoming one’s fears, as well as facing a problem head-on but with compassion. It is set on a Caribbean island (it does not say which one), and features Tata, a boy who wants to go to school. The family cannot afford bus fare for a safe trip to school, so he must venture through a field and face a mean bull each day to get to school. Many children will struggle with the concept of not being able to get to school, and this is a great jumping off point for discussions about life in other parts of the world and the struggles that other children face each day.

Tata isn’t successful on his first try to cross the field, but he continues to persevere. This sparks another discussion about character and perseverance. During his quest, he encounters good animals, bad animals disguised as good animals, and good animals disguised as bad animals. He must learn to understand the difference, to see people are more than face value, and to meet everyone that he meets with compassion. *Spoiler alert: He also learns the value of being honest, as the reason the bull is so mean is because he has been done wrong by another one of the animals.

The book is colorfully and beautifully illustrated and written in rhyme, which will appeal to younger readers. The life messages are artfully woven into the story and could easily be glossed over for the youngest of readers. One other aspect of the text that we enjoyed was the onomatopoeia…some of the words are written in fonts that describe the word itself (such as BANG or BUZZ), and this makes reading it a little bit more fun.

Overall, this is an excellent story for toddlers up through upper elementary aged children. It presents good character qualities through the challenges that Tata faces and overcomes. It focuses on the differences and similarities of people (as represented by the different animals) and how we can use words and understanding to bridge them. There are so many huge life lessons tucked into this small children’s book that it is definitely one you’ll want to read multiple times, if for no other reason than to choose a different discussion topic each time.

First published in The Old Schoolhouse.

Holly Johnson reviews books for The Old Schoolhouse.

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