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Pickle Me This

July 15, 2016

Who Broke The Teapot?, by Bill Slavin

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To those who might wonder how a broken teapot could sustain narrative enough to fill an entire book, I will raise the matter of my polka-dotted teapot which got smashed last year on Christmas Day and had me sulking right up until New Years. And so when I heard about Bill Slavin’s new picture book, Who Broke the Teapot?, I did wonder if the plot had been stolen from my life.

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Mother’s beloved teapot is toppled and smashed, and it’s not immediately clear who committed the crime. In our house it was Papa who did it, and he was actually wearing pants, but still, he ‘fessed up right away. Circumstances in Slavin’s book, however, are far more mysterious. The teapot is smashed and the house is in chaos, and what actually happened is hard to discern. And so the set-up of the story is picture book whodunnit. It’s up to the reader to put the pieces together and discover what actually occurred.

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And my sympathies were indeed with the mother, even in her unattractive irateness. I’ve been there, so I totally get it, but even if you haven’t, you can understand what it would feel like to lose your very favourite teapot, your favourite of the lot. Which poured but did not spill a drop. And certainly, such teapots are rare and precious objects, the sort you encounter a handful of times in the span of a life. To find one in pieces on the floor would be devastating.

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Of course, I like the book because it is basically a memoir about my life, and I identify with the protagonist, and it is hugely affirming to see my experiences represented in literature. But is that enough to sustain narrative enough to fill an entire book? Is it possible to love this book if you are not a 37 year old teapot enthusiast who weathered a similar tragedy just mere months ago?

And the answer is: YES. My children love this book, and not just because it mentions underwear (although they do love that part—as well as the part where the baby says, “Babadoo.”) Three-year-old Iris can now recite the book in its entirety, and it’s only lived in our house for a week, so it’s safe to say it’s made an impression. The rhyming text is fun and playful, the illustrations are full of action and detail, and the surprise ending is spot-on. And also just a tiny bit ambiguous, which means you get to go back to the beginning and read it again.

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4 thoughts on “Who Broke The Teapot?, by Bill Slavin”

  1. Bill Slavin says:

    So sorry to hear about your favourite teacup…

    1. Kerry says:

      You know, that was a typo. It was indeed a teapot just like your story. How did you know exactly how it was? (Thanks for a great book.)

  2. Margie Hunter says:

    I broke the lid of my favorite teapot several months ago. I am determined to find the best food grade glue and fix it. Buying this book for our public library for sure.

  3. Melwyk says:

    Uncanny….and yes, a broken teapot that is the best of the lot can be a definite tragedy! The eternal quest for a perfect pour goes on.

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