Sandy Barton has written four books about her best friend, an Irish leprechaun named Mr. McAlister.
The retired first grade teacher from Kenmore used to regale her classes with her adventures about the little man. “I told my classes for 30 years about the leprechauns in my back yard. It got to the point that teachers would come into my class and ask me if they could watch my class so I could to go talk to their class about my leprechauns,” said Barton, sister to Niagara Falls developer Craig Avery.
Since retiring, she’s written four leprechaun books, and speaks to children throughout Western New York about her little friend and his people. All the books focus on friendship, kindness and acceptance.
“In this last book, Mr. McAlister goes back to Ireland to be an ambassador and even though it breaks my heart, it’s what’s best for him,” she said, explaining that the message is friendship and loss. “It helps the kids to understand that even though something doesn’t feel good for you, it’s what’s best for your friend. It’s amazing. Even at six years old, they understand that.”
Barton, who will be speaking with students at Lewiston Porter Primary Center in April, says her books aren’t just for St. Patrick’s Day. “I go to schools throughout the year. The stories are mainly about friendship. Mr. McAlister is funny and goofy and he’s a good friend throughout the year.”
She also speaks regularly at the Tuscarora Indian School, and she describes as a “magical place.”
“You walk through those doors and it feels like home,” she said. “I love going there. It’s doesn’t feel like a school, it feels like family and it’s quite lovely.”
An excerpt from her first book in the leprechaun series, “Discovery in the Woods,” is below.
The ground was soggy from trying to drink up the melting snow, and my boots got sucked into the path, leaving deep footprints beneath the pine needles. While I struggled to pull my boots up and out of each step, Sophie, my crazy, ridiculous golden retriever, ran ahead of me into the woods. I could hear her sniffing and snorting as she bulldozed her way down the path. As usual, her tail was wagging, looking so much like a golden-red flag waving, smacking bushes and whacking tree trunks. She loved this place! I had just passed Fort Booga-Booga, the tree house my kids ran to each day after school. They climbed its sturdy ladder to the safety of the perch high in the tree. From there they could see everything - our house, the sand pit, the polka dot tree (that’s the tall, tall pine with a bazillion woodpecker holes in it that look like polka-dots), and the acres of woods that we called ours. It was the best “playground” you could ever hope for, and you didn’t have to be a kid to enjoy it. I loved being back there, too! So, I had passed the fort, and the sand pit, and was coming around the bend when I heard A LOT of noise. It was more than Sophie’s sniffing and snorting… it was a real commotion! Barking, yelling, more barking, more yelling - the only strange thing was, there were no people around. All I could see was Sophie’s big fluffy tail attached to her big fluffy butt, wagging furiously in the air, her head half swallowed up by a hole in the ground. The muffled yells seemed to be coming from that hole, under the roots, under the tree. Sophie was going wild! By the time I got there, Sophie’s head was still in the ground and her paws were frantically digging. That was normal for her, but what was a little weird was the yelling I heard coming from inside the hole. Or at least I thought I heard yelling! Yes, it WAS yelling - a man’s voice with a funny accent! “Get outta here ya big old brute! I’ll show ya not to be stickin’ your nose in my house. Take that, and that, and how ‘bout a little of that!” Sophie let out a loud yelp and suddenly she backed away from the hole.
For more information about Sandy Barton and her books, visit www.sandybarton.com.