Title: The Adventures of Butterbean and the King
Author: L. Michael Hellums
Illustrator: Malachy McKinney
Children’s author L. Michael Hellums has created two immensely likeable lead characters in his book, The Adventures of Butterbean and the King. Best friends, Rufus Jingles, also known as Butterbean because of his large girth and obvious passion for food, and King Tissell, so named for his beer bottle cap hat, which he wears wherever he goes, are ants from South Texas. Their “story begins in an ant mound far, far away…two miles west of Crown, Texas.” Butterbean and the King, who were never cut out to be worker ants, decide to spend their summer investigating the world outside their ant mound.
So begins the adventure, as they set out for Crown, Texas “to find out what King Tissell is actually the king of.” Along the way, they make friends with the likes of Dottie the dragonfly, Pepito the pill bug and Mundo the mythological Mexican wish beetle, whose “sole purpose in life is to grant one last wish to terminally ill insects.” Butterbean and the King also encounter enemies along the way, in the form of poisonous plants (fortunately King paid attention to the dangerous-plant book in Mrs. Delmont’s class!), ant lions, a Southwestern zebra scorpion called Socrates the Sorcerer and a couple of fierce horny toads called Gizmo and Otis who would like nothing better than to make a meal of them.
Upon discovering the disappearance of Butterbean and The King, Queen Vida enlists General George, Lieutenant Harrisant and Major Rudolf to send out a search party of army ants to find the missing juveniles before the predators of South Texas get to them first.
“The fireflies split up with the separate parties, lighting the way to the battle royal where the forces of good and evil collided to occupy the same position at the same time. It was a small stampede of the queen’s army tromping through the mud and rain to tackle a couple of monsters they hoped they would never have to meet. Fortunately for Butterbean and the King it was the soldiers of Queen Vida’s army with the most heart, the bravest of all her forces.”
Will Queen Vida’s army save Butterbean and the King? Will they make it to Crown, Texas and find out what King Tissell is really the king of? Will Mundo’s gift of a magic matchstick save the ants from unknown danger? These questions and more are answered in The Adventures of Butterbean and the King.
Hellums’ story, which is suitable for children ages 8-12, is engaging and delightful but seriously hampered by the lack of a professional editor as his numerous spelling (i.e. queen’s “thrown” instead of “throne” and sunshine “shown” instead of “shone”), grammar and sentence structure errors make for a largely distracting read and not one that could be easily read aloud as a bedtime story.
Malachy McKinney’s illustrations are wonderful but would have been far more effective if they had been printed in color. I understand how expensive self-publishing can be, but in order to be a successful self-published author, one must ensure he puts forth his very best effort and doesn’t take detrimental shortcuts that could lead to the downfall of the book’s success. That being said, Hellums’ story, once edited by a professional, should be good enough to attract a publisher and earn him a 3.5 star rating from me.
The Adventures of Butterbean and the King continue in volume two, entitled “The Tale of the Crown Jewels.” Discover more about Mikey’s world and author L. Michael Hellums at http://www.storiesfrommikeysworld.com and view the book’s trailer on YouTube here: