By Eilis Dillon, published 2006
“This adventure really began on early spring morning when I was fourteen years old. I remember it all so clearly, from the moment I stepped out into the still dark yard and went to unlock the stable door.”
This exquisitely-written Irish tale deserves to become a classic children’s book. I found it among the New York Review Children’s Collection, so that’s a good start. Woven around an Irish legend of the lost island of Inishmanann, (whose name resembles one of the Aran Islands), the entire children’s book feels like stepping into the deepest heart of the Irish culture of mystery and magic. The Islanders are described with great humor and care, as they out-trick the bad guys. And the bad guys are notoriously bad, but there’s a confidence that of course they will be defeated.
Woven through the tale is the confidence of a young boy in his father’s words, and the kind friendship of another lad his age. The improbability of their mission – to find their father on the lost island- creates enough drama that it’s hard to put the book down. Lots of humor, lots of action, and wonderfully drawn characters.
It’s a delight also to find a well-done boys book, that calls upon the heroism of both young and old in their mission to succeed. The language is rich, and therefore boys up to age 14 could easily enjoy this one. Given the richness of the language and the cultural differences, I suspect it’s best for 11 and up, but I could be wrong. I look forward to reading other children’s book by this Irish author.