cover image The King of Ireland's Son

The King of Ireland's Son

Brendan Behan. Scholastic, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-531-09549-2

The late Irish writer Behan (1923-1964) exhibits the gift of gab in this rollicking, if a wee long-winded, rendition of a traditional folk tale. When the King of Ireland promises half his kingdom to the son who discovers the origin of the heavenly music that floats through the countryside, Art, Neart and Ceart set off on the quest. Neart and Ceart quickly challenge Art to follow the music down a big hole, and happily believe they've seen the last of their sibling. But the hole merely marks the start of a meandering, arduous journey on which Art meets some wise ancient men, a magical stallion, a giant and, of course, a beautiful princess. After much contesting with the giant, all ends happily. Behan's colorful descriptions and turns of phrase (""Once upon a time [when] houses were whitewashed with buttermilk and the pigs ran around with knives and forks in their snouts shouting, `Eat me, eat me!' "") frequently enchant, though they sometimes bog down the pacing of an already hefty bit of text. Lynch's (The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey) deft hand has produced a spectrum of unusual characters and watercolor scenes ranging in mood from sinister to romantic to pastoral. His subjects' period garb, at times foppish or well-worn, convincingly sets these spirited proceedings in an exotic Ireland of long ago. Ages 6-up. (Mar.)