Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The late Irish writer Behan (1923-1964) exhibits the gift of gab in this rollicking, if a wee long-winded, rendition of a traditional folk tale. When the King of Ireland promises half his kingdom to the son who discovers the origin of the heavenly music that floats through the countryside, Art, Neart and Ceart set off on the quest. Neart and Ceart quickly challenge Art to follow the music down a big hole, and happily believe they've seen the last of their sibling. But the hole merely marks the start of a meandering, arduous journey on which Art meets some wise ancient men, a magical stallion, a giant and, of course, a beautiful princess. After much contesting with the giant, all ends happily. Behan's colorful descriptions and turns of phrase ("Once upon a time [when] houses were whitewashed with buttermilk and the pigs ran around with knives and forks in their snouts shouting, `Eat me, eat me!' ") frequently enchant, though they sometimes bog down the pacing of an already hefty bit of text. Lynch's (The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey) deft hand has produced a spectrum of unusual characters and watercolor scenes ranging in mood from sinister to romantic to pastoral. His subjects' period garb, at times foppish or well-worn, convincingly sets these spirited proceedings in an exotic Ireland of long ago. Ages 6-up. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Mary Sue Preissner
Behan, one of Ireland's foremost storytellers, brings this tale of how the king of Ireland offers half his kingdom to whichever of his three sons can find the source of heavenly music heard throughout the land. Duped by his brothers, Art meanders through deep and darkened caverns, meeting progressively older men of the same clan, until he happens upon a magic stallion and a land of a giant. By tricking the giant six times, Art frees the daughter of the King of Greece from this giant (and source of the heavenly music), marries her, inherits half the kingdom, and sees his brothers banished. Lynch's delightful art is richly detailed and accompanies this story well.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 3-6A lively folktale containing all of the elements that please children. Originally published in Brendan Behan's Island-An Irish Sketchbook (Random, 1962; o.p.), the text was transcribed from a tape recording of Behan telling the story, adding to the immediacy of the narrative. The King of Ireland wishes to know the source of the heavenly music that can be heard all around the country, so he sends his three sons off on the quest. When the brothers notice the music coming from a hole in the ground, Neart and Ceart lower Art down, hoping to get rid of him. Art travels through a tunnel and meets three old men, each the father of the one before, and finally comes upon a talking horse who leads him to a palace garden, where he discovers a captive princess playing a harp. Art must trick her captor, a giant, and keep himself from being devoured in the process. With the help of the magical stallion and his own quick wits and good humor, he rescues the princess and returns triumphantly to his father's castle, where he inherits half of the kingdom, marries the princess, "and wasn't I at the wedding as well as everybody else...." The exuberance of Lynch's vigorous watercolors, from lush gardens to humorous facial expressions, perfectly matches the rollicking rhythm of the text to create a wholly satisfying read-aloud. A perfect choice for St. Patrick's Day or any folklore unit.Connie C. Rockman, formerly at Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT
A story from Brendan Behan's IslandAn Irish Sketchbook (1962), turned into a lavishly illustrated picture book.
The king of Ireland sends his three sonsArt, Neart, and Ceartto find the source of heavenly music. Art descends into a cave, where he meets various strange old men, a helpful talking horse, and a not overly-bright giant. The style is that of an Irish storyteller relating the tale to an audience, with long, rushed sentences and keen exaggerations, e.g., in the listing of Art's many meals. The pictures are an odd mix: The fantasy elements (the old men, the giant) as well as the landscapes and backgrounds are buoyant and delightful, but a bad fit for the ordinary mortals, done in a somewhat jarring realistic style. Still, the phrasing and rhythms of the text make it ideal for reading aloud so listeners can hear its exuberant lilt.