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THE NAMES UPON THE HARP by Marie Heaney Kirkus Star


Irish Myth and Legend

adapted by Marie Heaney, illustrated by P.J. Lynch

Age Range: 6 & up

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-590-68052-8
Publisher: Scholastic

Brave warriors, connivers, beautiful women, and beings with supernatural powers populate the eight strongly told stories in this lavishly produced collection of Irish tales. Divided into three parts, the Mythological, Ulster, and Finn cycles, the stories retain a sense of the language and sensibility of oral traditions arising out of a mysterious and often violent past. Lynch’s dramatic and atmospheric watercolor and gouache illustrations alone are intriguing enough to lure readers to the stories. Neither the pictures nor the stories are for the faint-hearted. They include Balor with his fearsome evil eye, the Children of Lir, who are turned into swans by an evil stepmother, and a beheaded giant who carries his loathsome head in one hand and his ax in the other. Additional tales are “The Birth of Cuchulainn,” “Deirdre of the Sorrows,” “Finn & the Salmon of Knowledge” (including a poem translated by Seamus Heaney, husband of the teller), “The Enchanted Deer,” and “Oisin in the Land of Youth.” The author provides an introduction to each section, and, thankfully, a pronunciation guide thoughtfully arranged by story, to help with the Irish names, whose spellings have little in common with English orthography (Tuatha de Danaan = too-ha day dan-an; Cuchulainn= koo-hull-in or koo-kull-in). Beautifully produced, with gold lettering on the cover and Celtic designs throughout, this is a special book for families to share. If readers are inspired by Heaney’s retellings to further explore traditional Irish literature, the excellent source notes and suggestions for further reading are a good place to start. (Folklore. 6+)