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A Folktale of Ireland

by Gary Schmidt & illustrated by Loren Long

Age Range: 7 - 9

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-8050-6516-4
Publisher: Henry Holt

Donal and his wife, Sorcha, live on the mountain high above the village of Killaloe. With the death of their beloved “boyo,” their hearts become closed, as does their door. One winter afternoon, there comes a pounding and a shouting to open the door with the plea, “You’ll not be turning a man away in a cold like this!” Hesitatingly, Sorcha lets the peddler in with the warning he must be gone when Donal arrives. Two more peddlers come and join the first. When Donal returns, he promises to guide them to Killaloe after a smoke of the pipe. As they smoke, each of the peddlers has a story to tell, each of a young boy going to Fairy Land and returning. The first is a Rip Van Winkle variant; the second returns in the moment, though it seems to the boy a long time, and the third lives a long life of a priest, but returns the same age as he left. “It’s in the coming back that the wonder lies,” says Sorcha. With the storytelling finished, Donal says they should stay the night. Sorcha and Donal stay up, telling stories to each other of their lost boyo. “Sure, that a story can unbar and unbolt a heart, that is the greatest wonder of them all.” An afterword explains that the four stories have been combined to indicate how powerful and comforting storytelling can be. The author has the Irish lilt in the writing that will afford storytellers ease in the telling. Full-page illustrations opposite the text are acrylic on canvas with a thin brown frame to give a definition to the somber pictures. They are suitable to the stories and remind the reader of the darkened, candlelit atmosphere of the cottage. These stories within a story can be enjoyed as a good read-aloud as well as for storytelling. (Folktale. 7-9)