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Friday, January 15, 2010

A Pot O' Gold, selected and adapted by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by David McPhail. Hyperion, HB Fenn, 2004. $11.99 ages 8 and up

"Ireland's past and present bubble over with myths, legends, poetry, ballads, and wordplay of all kinds. The challenge in bringing such a treasure trove to young readers was to not create a book too heavy to lift. Searching through lots of dusty volumes to find the very best - some things perhaps familiar, some things a bit of a stretch - that was the fun part."

Her heritage is Irish and Kathleen Krull worked with love and great patience to fill her book with wonderful examples of the love of the Irish for words. She begins with stories of the sea; no matter where you are in Ireland you are only an hour away from it. There are stories, poems and even a lullaby that find their inspiration from the sea. She moves on to the food, inspired by the fact that food was often scarce and was thus celebrated for its goodness. There is milk and cheese, onions and herring and of course, potatoes. And recipes for Irish stew, and Irish soda makes my mouth water. The other sections of the book are about music, pride, scholars, the land, enchantments and blarney. It is a great collection, full to overflowing with the familiar and the new, including St. Patrick and Finn McCool. If you need blessings or curses, cures or lullabies, you will find them here.

Readers will love the limericks and the riddles that make them think and celebrate language. David McPhail's signature style adds to the enjoyment as the audience will appreciate the images he creates to help them see green and beauteous Ireland as it is, and as it was. They are colorful, expressive and appealing. This book is an excellent introduction to Ireland and its culture, and might just inspire a young reader to further a search into Irish history. Her introduction sets our course for this visit to Ireland and Kathleen Krull regales us with oaths and curses, ancient folk cures, and a set of philosophies for her young audience. Add to that detailed source notes and you have a very fine 'pot o' gold'!

"There once were two cats of Kilkenny;
Each thought there was one cat too many.
So they fought and they fit,
And they scratched and they bit,
Till instead of two cats there weren't any."

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