Pure magic, the watercolor drawings of this book for 2 to 5 year-olds, bringing to life 22 new friends--24 if I include the giant potato and the leprechaun. Set in an Irish-like countryside of about 200 years ago, Tomie dePaola retells an old story that appears in many cultures.
Jamie doesn't like to work; his wife Eileen does what's needed for them to eat. When her back goes out, Jamie fears he'll die from lack of food, so off he goes to get ready for the sad event. On his way to the village, he finds a fairies' shoemaker (the leprechaun) who outsmarts his captor by giving him a seed for the biggest potato on the world, rather than his treasured gold. The blessing becomes first a bane (can't get that veggie out of the ground), then a blessing (the curious villagers help), then a bane (ooops! it blocked the road), then a blessing thanks to quick-witted and kind Eileen (every one can have all they want), then a bane (the villagers eat and eat and eat and eat until they never want to see a potato again), and then a blessing as they offer food for life if Eileen and Jamie plant no more giant potatoes...the big pratie for sure.
The story has a fine lilt of words and as I mentioned, the drawings are wholly charming in DePaola's much-loved style. Is there anything more though to reading children this story?
To me, this is a classic tale of the apparently not-too-bright person--a schlemiel, a trickster, a lazy person---who by a "fortunate misfortune" and a certain talent for keeping on, brings fortune to her/himself and the community. I particularly like that the heroine is the hard-working, cheerful, and very bright Eileen who invites everyone to take all the potato they want, and how the community eventually pitches in to deal with the situations. The children with whom I have read this giggled at the turns of the story and loved the gay illustrations and the rhythm of the tale.
Recommended with delighted enthusiasm for the humor, imagination, and good things to be shared here. It seems to me an opportunity for readers, if they chose, to add some history.