Ossiri and the Bala Mengro

Richard O’Neill and Katharine Quarmby, illus. by Hannah Tolson. Child’s Play, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-8464-3925-4
Romani storyteller O’Neill collaborates with Quarmby (Fussy Freya) on a tale set in an itinerant Traveler community that lives in caravans. Ossiri yearns to be a musician and fashions an instrument from bits of trash her family gathers. But her inexpert playing disturbs them: “Ossiri, please stop!” cries her brother. “My ears are hurting.” When the family travels to Lancashire, Ossiri climbs the hills to practice, and a farmer’s daughter warns her that the local ogre, the Bala Mengro (“hairy person”), will cause trouble if her playing awakens him. It does—which actually brings Ossiri good fortune. The narrator emphasizes the way Travelers save and reuse: “Ossiri helped her father and grandfather to load their cart with goods other people had thrown out.” Gentle talk between family members creates a sense of closeness and security, while Romani words sprinkled throughout give a further sense of the community and its argot (a glossary is included). Tolson’s (A Pocket Full of Treasures) scribbly illustrations go right along with the spirit of improvisation and simplicity. Ages 4–9. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/13/2017
Release date: 03/01/2017
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 32 pages - 978-1-84643-924-7
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