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Itinerant peddler Patrick O'Kelley habitually tells magnificent lies, blarneying his gullible customers into purchasing scarves and trinkets. When he hears of a blarney contest in County Donegal, he sets his cap for the prize of a pot of gold, boasting that he "can spout better blarney than the king of the leprechauns himself." The king's mountain has ears (proof is in one of Rayyan's witty complementary illustrations), and the king decides to teach Patrick a lesson. In the throne room to which Patrick has been summoned, the king bestows upon Patrick a Ring of Truth; the wearer cannot lie while it is on his finger, and cannot remove it. Without his sales pitch, Patrick loses business, for "people . . . were now sore disappointed" in Patrick, and they run the hapless peddler out of town after town. All is not lost—when Patrick tells the amazing truth of why he no longer qualifies for the competition, the people believe his story to be the biggest blarney of all, awarding him the gold. Through the "fair folk," Patrick is provided with further truthful material for his tales, never believed by listeners in the grosser world. It's a reality that creates a larger, ironical wrapping for this tale; fanciful illustrations take off from a Renaissance base to provide yet another twist on the central theme. A cohesive, enchanting book.
Posted October 7, 2009
I read this to my kids and was laughing myself. The professional reviewer didn't care for the artwork. I'm an artist myself and realize the technical aspects of illustration have become formulaic. I found it refreshing to see these extremely well rendered whimsical watercolours. Some of my favourite books from childhood were of this ilk. I'm old enough to remember books of a less practical, structured formula. The illustrations' colour scheme does convey a mood effectively which was likely lost on the aforementioned reviewer. The mood made me nostalgic for an Ireland I remember fondly. I've nothing to do with the artist personally, but I enjoyed their work enough to feel the sting of such criticism.
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