Thursday 21 August 2008

The Old Stories by Kevin Crossley-Holland. Illustrated by John Lawrence

3111.jpgPublished by Dolphin Paperbacks - a division of Orion Books UK

A collection of traditional tales, folk lore, myths, rhymes and more, The Old Stories contains short pieces that are memorable and oftentimes quirky. Whether dealing with humour, fear, problem solving and many other topics, the theme often seems to turn to morals as is the way for many folk tales and myths from around the world. The rhymes are often in old dialects (though sometimes adjusted slightly to make them more understandable).

I liked this collection a great deal. I loved reading the local rhymes which, while not identical, were extremely similar to my own lancashire dialects. It made me smile and think of the region where I was raised. The writing style is beautifully descriptive and the tales are often filled with words that inspire the imagination, words such as bogles and woodwoses. I found that in the 'darker' pieces, the writing style was brilliantly chilling. As with any collection, there are always going to be favourites. Mine were the following:
  • The Suffolk Miracle: In which a farmer's daughter and a ploughboy fall deeply in love much to the displeasure of her father who does everything to prevent the joining of the two. True love as always, will not be denied.
  • The Dead Moon: In which the moon, who protects the local swamp from the bogles, dead things, and crawling horrors, decides to explore the swamp and see what the locals are so afraid of.
  • Sea Tongue: The voices of so many objects in a town (church bell, church, houses, the cliff) come together and share moments in their history.
  • Cape of Rushes: Folk tale which very much reminded me of Cinderella.
  • Samuel's Ghost: Samuel tries his best to ensure his spirit can rest.
  • A Coggeshall Calendar: Hilarious accounts of events during a year in Coggeshall and the steps the locals take to deal with these events. Pretty much a folk tale version of the Darwin Awards.

I was glad to see that the author includes sources and notes in the back of the book for those who wish to delve more into where these tales originated. The illustrations by John Lawrence which are of a simple style, were a tasteful and eye-catching addition. My only issue with those images was the fact that a few of them were repeated alongside different stories so I felt the illustrations in places were used more as 'fillers'. I liked that the stories are also paired with rhymes and sayings with the same theme. It's nice to see a layout so obviously well thought out.

Also, last but not least, I loved the book cover itself. In fact, I picked up this book just because of the cover. It was simply captivating. I am so glad it got my attention. While it was the cover that drew me to this author, it is his writing that has made me eager to find and read more of his books.

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