cover image THE WONDERS OF DONAL O'DONNELL: A Folktale of Ireland


Gary D. Schmidt, , illus. by Loren Long. . Holt, $17.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-6516-9

Tales of magic, mystery and faith help melt the hardened hearts of a grieving couple in Old Ireland in this handsome volume. With skill and care, Schmidt (Mara's Stories), as he explains in an author's note, blends a quartet of similar folktales into one, to emphasize a particular theme: loss, grief and healing. Donal and Sorcha O'Donnell have nearly closed themselves off from the world after the death of their only son. But during a terrible winter storm, Sorcha opens the cottage door to three different traveling peddlers who knock, seeking shelter. Each peddler—all named Donal—shares a marvelous tale about the loss and subsequent return (via various methods) of a son. Donal O'Donnell and Sorcha soon realize that, despite their pain, they need to let their boy live on, in their hearts and in their own stories. Schmidt's storytelling has an appropriately leisurely pace ("It was as hot a day as I could remember, and when noon came I'd have given my soul for a drink," goes one peddler's tale) and he integrates well a few tricks of the traditional Little People/fairies. But young readers may find the focus here a bit too adult and mystical in tone. Long's (My Dog, My Hero) shadowy full-page portraits and spot art, rendered in rich, creamy acrylics, create a fitting dreamlike mood throughout. Ages 8-12. (Nov.)