Tuesday, March 3, 2015

St. Patrick's Day, Part 2


This is the St. Patrick's Day Girl Power edition!

O'Sullivan Stew - written and illustrated by Hudson Talbott
Kate O'Sullivan is a resourceful girl with a gift for storytelling.  The trouble starts when the village won't help the witch when the king's soldiers take her horse.  Their reasoning is that she's not one of them.  This ticks her off and she curses the village with a famine.

Kate decides she's had enough of starvation, so she proposes that she and her father and brothers go to the castle and steal back the horse.  They are reluctant, but she convinces them with this logic - "We're facing death in either case, by the hangman's rope of the empty plate.  Which way do you prefer to go?"

They get caught thanks to her clumsy father and are scheduled to be hung. But Kate's talent for storytelling with more than a touch of blarney earns them their freedom, one fantastical story and one family member at a time.

Once Kate has returned the horse, the witch lifts the curse and the village celebrates.  The king can't get Kate out of his mind, of course, so he comes to the village to find her and ask her to be his wife.  I won't spoil it, but her response is completely awesome.

Three of my favorite things about this book:  1)  Kate's utter confidence,  2)  her response to the king's proposal, and 3) the sign hanging above the village's celebration that reads "Everyone is One of Us."

There's something to be said for the continuity that comes when an author illustrates his own books. Talbott's illustrations are perfect for this story. - just the right blues and greens for an Irish village by the sea, the red hair is just the right tone, each picture is detailed, realistic and bright without being overwhelming.

Fun facts - Hudson Talbott traveled to Ireland to do research for this book.  His traveling companion was an O'Sullivan and they stayed with the O'Sullivan clan in Crookhaven.  You won't find these facts fun until you read the book, so I guess you need to do that. :)

Brave Margaret: An Irish Adventure - written by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
San Souci, who passed away less than three months ago, is known for his adaptations of various forms of folklore.  One of his strengths is painting a vivid verbal picture of his characters and he has done that well with Margaret.

Margaret longs to see the world and when a prince docks his ship in the cove below her farm and comes to her asking for some of her livestock, she agrees to let him take her cattle IF she can travel with them.

A few days into the trip, they run into a sea serpent who demands they throw Margaret overboard or he will devour them.  While the men prepare to fight the serpent, Margaret rows out to meet the serpent and kills him.  She is tossed ashore and hits her head, falling unconscious.  When she comes to, she finds a small cottage and asks the old woman living within for shelter.

She stays for a few days, waiting for the storm to stop and as she is leaving, the price arrives.  When they try to leave together, they are unable to and soon discover that the old woman is a hag of sorceries.

This is where the story gets a little bit crazy, so I'm going to stick with the bare essentials. The hag sends Simon on a mission to slay a giant and he fails.  Margaret saves the day and Simon.  They are rewarded for accomplishing the mission and head for home.

A favorite line:  "I am the champion you have waited for!  What fools we are for thinking it must be a man who slays that great, dirty giant!"

This story is definitely for upper elementary ages, little ones will lose interest quickly.  San Souci uses rich vocabulary, a weaves an intriguing tale of courage and perseverance.

The illustrations, done in pastel, are beautiful, and have a dream-like quality to them.

Please include these books in your St. Patrick's Day collection!

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