TITLE: Mrs.McCool and the Giant Cuhullin
AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR: Jessica Souhami
PUBLISHER: Henry Holt and Company
AGES: Good for “Read Aloud” and “Read it Yourself”.
The joy of folktales is something that we recently discovered at our home. Stepping aside from classics and contemporary humor , we seem to embrace folktales, quite effortlessly. The book that I have with me is an Irish folklore, bearing a tale very similar to the ones that were orally passed on to me while I was growing up.
The central characters in this tale are legendary giants Cuhullin and Finn McCool. Mrs. Oona McCool is the one with the brains and quite intuitively, also the one to save her husband oftentimes from Cuhullin. Now, Cuhullin has a magic finger that makes him strong and Finn has a magic thumb that bestows upon him, the power to foresee things. Finn uses his magic thumb and announces (in jitters of course) the impending arrival of Cuhullin. Mrs.McCool to the rescue! A simple story you think, buckle up for a good dose of slapstick humor! Children will be laughing boisterously as they see fun illustrations and hear goofy dialogues.
Mrs.McCool is quick witted. She drops Finn with a bonnet in a cradle and welcomes Cuhullin for tea. She makes unreasonable, rather unrealistic (not that there is realism to worry here) requests that demand extreme brawn from Cuhullin. And this she does, so nonchalantly that Cuhullin is led to believe that the tasks are all a routine in the McCool household. Just look at the front cover – there is Cuhullin trying to lift the house so Oona can broom off the dust underneath! Here is also a sample of silliness to taste – “Goodness!” exclaimed Cuhullin. “Look at the size of him! Look at the moustache! If this is the baby, what must Finn be like?” , as Cuhullin mistakes Finn for a real baby. He also ends up sticking his finger in the “baby’s” mouth, only to have his magic finger bitten off! Petrified, the shrinking Cuhullin runs amok, leaving a cheery couple dancing!
“It was nothing, dear Finn,” said Oona.”Big is Big. But brains are better!” . Probably the profound truth that this story intended to convey to little children and just as the message drives home, you are still not really far from the jocund moments. The magic of folktales it is. Loony and wacky, oh yeah! But did you also realize the feminist undercurrent, the portrayal of the woman endowed with brainpower, the one to thwart a giant – amazing to think of it when there is still so much gripe in contemporary children’s literature about the roles women or girls are given! Quick paced with bright collage like illustrations, this book is wonderful to be read aloud to children!
There is never enough said about folktales. Flavorful, informative and historic, with so much room for imagination. These hand me downs from wonderful storytellers, sometimes didactic and sometimes just for laughs. Timeless.