As told and illustrated by Isa Trapani, I’m A Little Teapot (1996, Whispering Coyote Press) is an adaptation of the famous 1939 nursery rhyme and features 11 additional stanzas to accompany the original poem. Teapot tells the story of a lady teapot with big aspirations to move beyond the kitchen, a frankly ludicrous proposition that caused me to have to explain to my 6-month-old daughter that teapots are inanimate objects and cannot play in orchestras, be used as pirate ships, or go on safaris, which are just three of the 11 ridiculous dreams told by our unnamed pot. Which, I should mention, can’t have dreams! Teapots aren’t even alive/have no functional organs. The entire story is preposterous.
Plus, hearing about other people’s dreams is really boring and causes me to lose interest almost instantaneously, but I was already past the first page and was forced to read an entire book about someone’s dream to my kid.
After reciting the poem we all know and introducing herself from the stovetop as both “little” and “short and stout” to two (also unnamed) children sitting at the nearby kitchen table, the teapot launches into her dreams. The story immediately moves to China where the teapot and kids go kite flying, a dream of the teapot and an obvious-if-not-embarrassing attempt to bring diversity to an otherwise all-white children’s book. Also, I wasn’t sure how to rhyme “And eat with chopsticks as we float” like “Tip me over and pour me out.” I had to pronounce it ”chop-a-sticks” in order to make the rhyme work, and felt like a complete idiot in front of my daughter.
The teapot then shares her dream of becoming a matador, which forced me to explain to an infant - an infant - what bullfighting is. “Yes, unfortunately the bulls are slaughtered during these events,” I told my daughter, tears swelling in my eyes. “And teapots can’t really become matadors, remember, this book is all just a dream.” (A nightmare, more like it.)
I did, however, get a little distracted at this point in the book when I imagined making a movie about a woman matador who has to fight her way through a male-dominated sport. There could be some really great drama in a movie like that, and solid action sequences featuring real bulls, which will have everyone in Hollywood talking.
Anyway, the teapot turns into a spaceship and meets aliens (“Teapots can’t do that and aliens probably exist but we have never seen one outside of an incident in the 1940s”); the teapot turns into a pirate ship (“Pirates are bad”); and the teapot goes on a jungle safari and swings from vines (“Teapots do not have arms and if you ever are given the opportunity to see the Brendan Fraser version of George of the Jungle just skip it, total waste of time”).
Perhaps most bafflingly, the teapot also goes on a fox hunt and, while not pictured, readers can only assume she holds an innate desire to shoot an innocent animal purely for sport. Between the bull and the fox, the book is simmering with an underlying hatred of animals. Honestly I’m surprised the teapot didn’t bow-hunt the alien or turn the jungle safari into an Amazonian bloodbath.
At one point the teapot joins an orchestra and plays a saxophone, meaning the illustrator overlooked a perfect opportunity for the teapot to play her own spout. So bush-league.
The book ends with a child pouring tea in a living room filled with characters from the previous pages: Asian kids, black kids, about double the number of white kids than Asian and black kids, the alien, other babies, the bull (clearly a continuity error as it was killed 20 pages prior), and a fox (also assumed dead, so has to be a ghost-fox). Many of the kids are also drinking tea, and I have never seen a kid drink tea. Children should also not be handling steaming hot liquids or drinking caffeine, two facts Mrs. Trapani chooses to irresponsibly glaze over for the sake of a story. Also my daughter ate page 7.