Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyHeaney delves into the roots of Irish lore for her collection of eight tales. Conflict, murder and magic abound as kings and chieftains fight one another over beautiful women or to win honor.The author, the wife of Seamus Heaney, divides the volume into the three accepted cycles of early Irish literature (the mythological, Ulster and Finn cycles), providing a brief explanation of the period as well as tales representative of each. Readers meet a variety of Ireland's ancient heroes and villains as they conquer lands and such peoples as the Tuatha De Danaan, who later became known as the Faery or Little Folk that live under the earth in the Land of Youth. Heaney includes all the necessary elements--drama, intrigue, ambition, wizardry--but something is amiss when she strings them together. The narrative becomes mired in copious, often confusing detail (e.g., a brief mention of the character Morann in "The Birth of Cuchulainn" goes unexplained) and difficult-to-pronounce names (a key is provided at book's end). "The Children of Lir," for instance, gets bogged down in logistics and is not as musical as Malachy Doyle's version in his recent Tales from Old Ireland; the writing overall lacks spark and a smooth storytelling pace. Young readers will likely find this work more tough-going than tantalizing. Lynch (The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey) serves up a theatrical pastiche of watercolor-and-gouache, capturing kings, maidens, druids and cherubic babies in his striking portraits and creating sweeping scenes of the harsh and rugged Irish landscape (and seascape) of yore. All ages. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Children's LiteratureEight carefully chosen tales, two from the Mythological Cycle, three from the Ulster Cycle and three from the Finn Cycle, represent many aspects of the Irish cultural tradition. The author begins each cycle with an introduction to provide background information. As a result, the reader will experience a deeper understanding of the tale. Several are well-known stories, such as "The Children of Lir," "Finn and the Salmon of Knowledge," and "Oisin in the Land of Youth." Readers will learn about the battle for Ireland between two powerful tribes, the birth of Cuchulainn, and will discover a poem translated from the Irish by the author's renowned husband, Seamus Heaney. The author's eloquent prose is matched by the dramatic illustrations by one of Ireland's best-loved illustrators. The mythic scenes come to life as Lynch depicts a ferocious Balor with his pointed teeth and evil eye, and grisly battle scenes. Other scenes capture an other-worldly countryside and the love between parent and child. There is a pronunciation guide for the Irish names and words used in the tales, source notes and a bibliography. A beautiful and sophisticated package that will reward the reader. 2000, Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, $19.95. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo
School Library Journal - School Library JournalGr 4 Up-Heaney presents a sampling of stories from each of the three main cycles of early Irish literature: the Mythological cycle, the Ulster cycle, and the Fenian cycle. Each grouping is accompanied by a brief but pithy introduction that effectively sets the stage for the stories to come. The selections themselves cover the gamut from sentimental, passionate tales of romance to the bloody dramas of war or political power plays. While most of the stories, such as "The Children of Lir" and "Oisin in the Land of Youth," can be found in other collections, both the quality of Heaney's retellings and the systematic organization make this volume worthy of consideration. Lynch augments the power of each tale with watercolor-and-gouache illustrations that are appropriately beautiful or horrifying, depending on the theme at hand. He expertly executes both setting and characters, and there is a misty quality to his paintings that gives a true sense of the long ago and faraway. While this is not an essential purchase, those in need of a solid collection representative of Irish myth and legend cannot go wrong here.-Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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