The Children of Lir

The Children of Lir

5.0 1
by Sheila MacGill Callahan, Gennady Spirin

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The craggy coast of Ireland provides a brooding backdrop for this stirring folktale, reputed to be the genesis of Shakespeare's Lear. After the death of his wife, Aobh, King Lir marries her sister Aiofe, whose beauty ``hid an evil heart.'' Jealous of her husband's love for his four children, Aiofe casts a spell on the youths, turning them into swans ``for three times three hundred years,'' or until the twin mountains bordering the kingdom should come together. In her second book, MacGill-Callahan ( And Still the Turtle Watched ) exhibits an admirable sense of classical fairy-tale style: her prose, studded with poetic imagery and elegant turns of phrase, escalates the story's dramatic impact. Spirin's ( Snow White and Rose Red ) characteristically sumptuous, gilt-flecked paintings accentuate both the material opulence of royalty and the strength and natural beauty of the varied animals who assist the swans and provide the book's joyful conclusion. Lavish double-page spreads are balanced by smaller watercolors set among the text--though the painstaking detail is occasionally difficult to discern in the individual illustrations. A lyrical and compelling narrative, coupled with another triumph of artistry and exquisite design for a consummate craftsman. Ages 4-8. (Mar. )
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 3 Up-- This book makes a gorgeous first impression. However, compared to the traditional story of the children of Lyr as retold by Joseph Jacobs ( Celtic Fairy Tales Dover, 1968) or the collection Irish Folktales (Pantheon, 1987), it seems an irresponsible adaptation. The author's assertion that scholars connect this ancient king with Shakespeare's Lear may or may not be accurate, but it is a connection in name only. The folkloric roots of Shakespeare's Lear are found in the story of the princess who loved her father as much as salt. The one noticeable common thread from the play to this book is the king's madness, and it is not found in the traditional tale of Lyr's children. In that story, the king marries his dead wife's sister, who is jealous of his children and turns them into swans. They spend their lives this way until the spell is broken just as, old and withered, their human forms are ready to die. There is spiritual redemption, but no corporeal second chance. In this lavishly illustrated bit of fluff, readers will find the jealous aunt and the transformation into swans, but the children's story is beautified, expurgated, and given an environmental gloss that breaks down. The beasts of the air and the water, led by a jolly whale, join forces to save the four swan children--still young and pretty--and everyone lives happily ever after. Spirin's lush, detailed watercolors, glorious in San Souci's The White Cat (Orchard, 1990), alternate here between narrative miniatures and double-page spreads crowded to the point of confusion. Yes, his whales and gulls and seals and swans are well rendered, but to what purpose? Text is framed in borders of intricate design, creating an illusion of illuminated parchment--a lavish production for so little content. There is a murky ``scholarly'' addendum that obfuscates the story even further. Don't judge this book by its cover. --Sally Margolis, Deerfield Public Library, IL
Leone McDermott
This retelling of an old Irish myth just dazzles. King Lir's love for his four children so infuriates their evil stepmother, Aiofe, that she changes them into swans. Only at the equinox can they resume their human forms, and on that day they will die if their feet touch the ground. For seven years, the four survive with the help of other animals and become renowned for the sweetness of their songs. In a final confrontation with Aiofe, the children are freed when a chain of flying swans joins two distant mountains, breaking the enchantment. MacGill-Callahan gives a deeply moving and dramatic version of the old tale, using elegant and poetic but uncluttered prose. Spirin exceeds himself in the beauty and quantity of his watercolors. As always, his illustrations are lustrous and densely detailed, in a style reminiscent of Renaissance art. Here they are also rich in drama and vitality. One double-page spread shows the children on the back of a whale, dancing amidst a crowd of flying birds, leaping dolphins, and bobbing walruses. The effect is one of abundance, energy, and joy. Folklore purists may grumble at the liberties MacGill-Callahan has taken with the original myth (which has a sad ending), but kids won't care. This book casts its own spell of magic and delight.

Read More

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed
Product dimensions:
1.00(w) x 1.00(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Children of Lir 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is about a king who ruled Irland with his children and queen.The queen turnes the chilren into swans.King lir arrests the queen king lir dies the children wait till the wedding day... my fav bit was when the children change back. this book is brilliant by guli year 4/5