Monday, October 4, 2010

The Wonder-Smith and his Son, retold by Ella Young

This book is a compilation of Irish folk tales collected by the author, about the Gubbaun Saor. The book was a bit tricky for me because it generally lacked description but had a lot of action, so it felt as if I was lacking some necessary background information to really connect with the story. Additionally, the Wonder-Smith's son is not technically his son. He had only a daughter (and the book fails to tell us how he acquired her, so we can only assume that Mrs. Gubbaun Saor was short-lived and of little significance). One day while lamenting that he had only a daughter to whom he could pass on his wisdom and skills, a woman upon the road was weeping likewise for her fool of a son. Each thinks the other to be in a better position than himself, so they decide to trade. The Wonder-Smith does regret his rash choice- his daughter was both beautiful and wise, and his new son is rather lazy, refusing to learn and only playing music to charm the animals. However, he does eventually marry the Wonder-Smith's daughter, reuniting the family. This was the tale that I enjoyed the most from the book.

Interestingly, this volume is illustrated by the same fellow who did the fabulous black-and-white illustrations for Gay Neck, Boris Artzybasheff. It does seem a little unfair that this guy got to do two of the three 1928 Newbery books, but hey. He's clearly very versatile- Gay Neck's illustrations put me in mind of Russian folktales, while the Wonder-Smith illustrations were much more Celtic and suited to this book. But unfortunately, as is common with many older books, after a point the illustrations fail to align with their proper place in the plot, often falling quite a few pages before the depicted event occurs in the text. Quite a shame!

190 pages but still quick- the story doesn't begin until page 23, and each of the 10 illustrations takes up at least 3 pages between the image itself, its caption, and additional white pages. Also printed in very large font.

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