Monday, April 06, 2009

The King with Horse's Ears by Batt Burns

The King with Horse's Ears and Other Irish Folktales by Batt Burns
Illustrated by Igor Oleynikov
Copyright 2009
Sterling - Children's fiction (ages 8-12)
96 pages, incl. glossary & sources

The first thing I noticed about this book, besides the beautiful illustrations, was the awesome smell. The King with Horse's Ears is printed on high-quality paper that I could sit and sniff all day. I wonder if you can be arrested for book-sniffing.

I handed the book to my 17-year-old on the day it arrived, after he returned from school. He stood in the doorway of our office, reading and grinning. I kid you not. He's since sneaked the book off to read a story, now and then, when he's been in the mood. Kiddo's opinion is that the stories are good, but some of them have "nyeh" endings and he likes his Norse mythology better than folk tales. But, in general, he really likes the book. He is kind of a mythology freak, so you'd have to expect that crack about folk tales being secondary to mythology.

I really enjoyed The King with Horse's Ears. As my son said, some of the endings are a little bit of a let-down. But, if you read many folk tales or fairy tales, you'll find that's not unusual. They sometimes have grand, heroic endings but often end in death or misery for the innocent or punishment for the wicked -- it can go either way. Sometimes the bad guys win. In this case, of course, there are lots of interesting Irish touches: fairies, warriors, changeling babies, peat burning in the fireplace and a scary beasts with glowing eyes.

The author has kindly provided not only a glossary but also some footnotes on pronunciation of difficult Gaelic names and words. If you can get those tricky words figured out, with the right amount of drama these stories would be excellent to read aloud to a room full of bright-eyed elementary students.

Two of my favorite stories are "The Boy and the Pooka", about a frightening beast that turns out to be harmless and kind, which has an unexpectedly sweet ending, and "Just One Choice," the story of a man who can make a single wish but has several things worth wishing for and must decide which wish is the most important. "Just One Choice" is actually not a traditional folk tale, but one written by the author of the book. I thought it was terribly clever and so did my son.

The illustrations in this book are absolutely fabulous. I found myself staring at them, wondering to myself how on earth the illustrator accomplished those effects. I'm guessing the media is mixed, but man . . . just looking at those illustrations made me want to go to art school so I could possibly identify how he went about creating them. I've recently read two other Sterling Children's books and I have to say I think they're consistently, mind-bogglingly wonderful. If you're ever looking for some knock-out books to buy as gifts for youngsters, definitely look up Sterling Kids.

In other news:

Last week I really kept the parcel deliverers on their toes. I believe the final count of books that arrived on our doorstep was a whopping 19 -- probably an all-time high. Fortunately, it was really just a timing issue. I don't normally acquire that many books in a single week. If I did, we'd be living in a warehouse, not a home. But, I'll bet I could assemble some fine and extremely attractive furniture if I was willing to glue my books together.

Today, only one book walked in: The Moment Between by Nicole Baart.

The next few weeks will be very, very busy for us. I have been ridiculously lax on my gardening chores, so I need to do some intense work to get the planting done before it becomes too hot. Also, my son will be out of school for Easter week. I try not to spend all day blogging and twittering when he's around and we're going to try to work on emptying out our den so we can find someone to fix a flooring disaster. We did kind of turn our den into a pseudo warehouse. Ah, well. Sometimes you lose your head.

Point being, if I'm slower to post and/or approve comments (it may take me a couple of days, on occasion), please be patient with me. If the chores become overwhelming, I'll simply take a week or two off, but I'll give you fair warning so you don't worry that I've fallen into one of the two gigantic new sinkholes that have developed in Vicksburg, recently.

Also, don't forget tomorrow is the day of my drawing for a copy of any one title from Colleen Gleason's Gardella Vampire series!!! It's a sticky. If you're on a reader, just hop on over to the blog and look up. Happy Monday!


  1. Sounds like a really fun book. I admit that I've been known to sniff a book on occasion--even the older musty ones that have been sitting on the shelf (mine, someone's) for years and years.

    Have a great time with eldest kiddo--if you need to take a break, I'm sure it will be a good one! Happy Easter.

  2. Trish,

    I love the smell of a musty old used-book store, too, don't you? Old books have a completely different type of smell, but it's still appealing.

    Thanks! We have some projects to shove the kiddo through, during his break. He's been a pain in the patootie, lately. We'll have some fun time, too, but he needs a swift kick in the fanny.

  3. Let's see--he went off to school since I've been blogging, so he's 19?? I was kind of a pain in the butt when I was that age also. :P Swift kicks to the fannies help sometimes.

  4. Trish,

    Close. He's 17 and still at home. I have a 24-year-old who went off to school and now has a job in the real world. He works at FedEx and we're all counting our blessings because he was one of those spared in the recent lay-offs. He's in Memphis. At 17, I was in college, but I think my junior/senior years I was a pain, too. That's about the point that they're ready to get away from Mom & Dad, no matter how well they get along with the parents.

    There has been some verbal swift-kicking going on. ;)

  5. First off, you make me feel so much better about the amount of books I've brought into the house in the last two weeks :p Have you seen my mailbox monday posts? I'm usually not that bad, but this week I brought 13 in and last week I brought 20 in!! Although a few were audiobooks and ebooks, so that's not AS bad. But still, that's 33 books in 2 weeks!!! Good Lord!!

    This one sounds SO good. :) I've been waiting for you to review it. I know exactly what you mean about how good high quality paper smells, but it would worsen my migraine right now, so I'm glad I have none to smell :p Just popped two Darvocet though so hopefully it will be gone soon ;)

    If your son is a mythology fan, you should get him the Canongate Myth books! Has he read any of those yet? They're modern retellings of various myths from different cultures. I'm getting ready to start the one that Margaret Atwood wrote called The Penelopiad based on the story of Odysseus' wife Penelope!

  6. Anonymous3:18 AM

    I so want to read this book. I love fairy tales and this seems like a good book. Love the cover.

  7. The book sounds delightful and the cover is gorgeous! You had a great week in books last week.

  8. Chris,

    You've got me pummeled, but it's good that we're both feeling better about our book intake level. I'm trying to read as fast as I can. How about yourself?

    I'm sorry you have a migraine. I have just a hint of one. It must be something in the air. Blecch.

    Nope, I haven't heard of the Canongate Myth books. I'll have to look them up, thanks! I've heard of the Penelopiad, but I'm still afraid of Margaret Atwood. I have no idea why.

    Violet Crush,

    Give into the force and buy a copy. The illustrations alone make it worth owning. Not to mention that heavenly smell . . .


    Did I? I guess with the March days included, I had a good week. The end of the week looks kind of awful. I'm still catching up on reviews. I don't write several at once because I'm kind of a ridiculous perfectionist and edit myself to death.

  9. I am always sniffing books. I love the smells- old book smell, fresh new book smell, the only one I can't stand is smoker-read-this-last book smell. I've even had a certain scent of ink and paper remind me of a totally different book- that had nothing in common except its signature smell.

  10. I love the sound of this one! Of course, I'm always a sucker for beautiful illustrations, too!

  11. Jeane!

    Wahoo! Another book sniffer! You and I should hang out together.
    I'm with you on the smoke smell being offensive. Otherwise . . . sniff, sniff. Ahhh. I've had certain ink/paper scents remind me of other books, too.


    Sucker #2, here. I love beautiful illustrations. You know, this would probably be a fun book for one of Carl's challenges.

  12. Wahoo! I've been admiring that Horse-eared King cover for some time. Sounds fun.

    Enjoy the gardening - I can't wait for just a few more degrees of warmth and less wind. I did take some photos of what I'm looking forward to hoping that some attention to the poor daffys would encourage them to bloom. My tulips are still toddlers, tho.

  13. Care,

    Isn't that just the cutest cover?

    I still haven't gotten to the gardening. I don't know what my problem is. I go outside and think, "Nyeh," then end up taking photos of birds and roses. I just don't feel like digging. Maybe it's because my legs are kind of sore from running. Sounds like a good excuse, doesn't it?

  14. Anonymous9:22 PM

    That cover has some serious cute action going on. I love it.

  15. Softdrink,

    All the illustrations are that great. The book is really a joy to look at.

  16. I'm trying to read as fast as I can too! And by the totally get credit for Eleanor Rigby :p I'm going to add you to the bad blogger list now! I had forgotten about your review, but it's definitely the first time I had heard of it and it's what put it on my radar orginally! I just finished Hey Nostradamus the other day...have you read that one? So good!

  17. Chris,

    Wahoo! Bad Blogger points!!! So excited. :)

    Nope, I haven't read Hey Nostradamus, yet, but I've got a copy.

  18. I have been waiting for your review on this book! Glad that you mostly enjoyed it! I will have to add it to the list. :)


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