Forgotten Bookshelf: Thistle and Thyme
Ghosts. Fairies. Bewitched Hares. Have a hankering for some gorgeous folk tales? Look no further than Sorche Nic Leodhas' Thistle and Thyme, a sweet little sampling of tales and legends from Scotland.
You may recognize the author's name from the Caldecott-winning picture book, Always Room for One More. And just for kicks, let me inform you that this author's real name is Leclaire Alger. Yup. I would have picked up a nom de plume if I had been settled with that sucker, too.
Leodhas posesses the rare talent of being able to write in a dialect without it overpowering the text. There's just enough of the Celtic idiom in the stories to create the essence of the time and place without it becoming artificial. Plus, it makes it darn fun to read aloud: just try this sample out from the first story in the book, "The Laird's Lass and the Gobha's Son":
An old laird had a young daughter once and she was the pawkiest piece in all the world. Her father petted her and her mother cosseted her till the wonder of it was that she wasn't so spoiled that she couldn't be borne. What saved her from it was that she was so sunny and sweet by nature, and she had a naughty merry way about her that won all hearts. The only thing wrong with her was that when she set her heart on something she'd not give up till she got what it was she wanted.Lawks, what a beginning! It makes me want to pull my best Groundskeeper Willy impersonation out of the closet and just go with it. A pawky piece, indeed!
As for the content of the stories, they've got everything: evil wizards, knights, tricksters, changelings, mermaids, and even a demon or two thrown in for kicks. It just makes you wish for a particularly dark and stormy night in which to curl up under a rug with a few good listeners. Just turn a few pages, and you can transport them away to a land of adventure and grand romantic gesture.
Leodhas' has written scads of other Scottish folklore anthologies, but this one shines out from the throng. One thing to note if you're looking for a used copy online: this book was published in two different editions, one with more stories than the first. Either one promises lots of fun.