Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Tomato Ketchup Story

The Tomato Ketchup Story is Katie Danielle Bodsworth's appealing, if eccentric, retelling of the New Testament story of four men who carried their crippled friend to Jesus on a mat. When the men couldn't push through the crowd to get to Jesus, they cut a hole in the roof and lowered their friend in front of Jesus.

Our story is timeless, but has a European feel, and centers around Charlie, who was recently hurt in an accident. His friends, Leo, Ollie, Billy, and Sebastian are sitting around drinking lemonade, orange juice, chocolate milk and ketchup! when they come up with a plan to bring Charlie to Jesus. The friends are sure Jesus will help Charlie, even if he still has his jimjams (pajamas) on.

In the midst of a few more ketchup incidents, some interesting European terms (nappies for diapers, dustbins for gutters, etc. . . ) and some random characters (the "old lady who reeked of cabbage"), the biblical story remains unchanged. Jesus forgives Charlie's sins and heals him, and soon Charlie is marching down the street with a bottle of ketchup for Sebastian.

Bodsworth's illustrations are happy and bright, but also eccentric. The backgrounds are realistic photographs, with bright, oil-pastel or chalk characters cut out and placed in the pictures, for a collage-like feel.

What I Like: Well, in the words of my six-year-old, "It was good. Weird, but good." My two-year-old carried the book around for the entire next day. So, I think we like the bright, unusual pictures, and the odd retelling of the story. Although neither of these children will eat ketchup, they do have an auntie and uncle in Northern Ireland, and they were proud they already knew what nappies were.

I do like Bodsworth's creativity and purpose. Her website says she was trying to engage young children and keep them entertained while teaching about the Bible. The biblical message is clear. Also, her artwork is unusual for a children's book, and appealed to my son, who sometimes thinks he is too old for "kids' books."

What I Dislike: The book is a little random. The ketchup references seem a little out of place, and there are lots of loose ends. We never find out how Jesus responds to the "lady who reeked of cabbage," or any of the other people mentioned. Although the book is fun, there is too much going on at once.

Overall Rating: Good

Age Appeal: 4-8

Publisher Info: Katie Danielle Bodsworth, 2010; ISBN: 978-1451536393; Paperback, $7.99

Buy it at for $7.99.

Special Info: Jesus is featured, looking Caucasian, with reddish-brown hair and a goatee.

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