cover image O'Sullivan Stew: A Tale Cooked Up in Ireland

O'Sullivan Stew: A Tale Cooked Up in Ireland

Hudson Talbott. Putnam Publishing Group, $15.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23162-9

A witch, sea serpent, giant, fairies and wild beasts are among the staples in Talbott's (We're Back: A Dinosaur's Story; Amazon Diary) bubbly story, set on the coast of Ireland. Trouble begins when the king's soldiers lay claim to a stallion belonging to the local witch and her neighbors do nothing to help. With the witch in a snit, fishnets come up empty, cows refuse to give milk and gardens die. To save the village from starvation, feisty Kate O'Sullivan convinces her father and brothers to accompany her to the king's palace to steal back the horse. Their bumbling attempt fails and the clan is brought before the ruler, who agrees to spare Kate's life if she tells him a story that proves that she has been in a ""worse spot"" before. The heroine duly impresses the monarch with her descriptive flashbacks to a prior, enticingly preposterous close call, then rescues her kin with stories about them. Several clever turns of plot add spice to this appetizing concoction. Like his narrative, Talbott's high-spirited art occasionally approaches the slapstick, as when a band of ""demonic"" cats huddles around Kate's brother, their eyes gleaming and their teeth exposed in wicked grins, singing a screechy version of ""Danny Boy"" to ""earn"" their supper from the frightened lad. Visually and verbally inventive in its details and its broader storytelling, this one is a shiny shamrock. Ages 5-up. (Feb.)