Young readers will love strong, confident, smart Kate O'Sullivan. When the chips are down, Kate saves the lives of her family members by stirring up a handful of outrageous tales, each one more far-fetched than the last. O'Sullivan Stew -- from award-winning author and artist Hudson Talbot -- offers surprise after surprise! Included: Cross-curriculum activity ideas for extending this superb read-aloud!
Hudson Talbot, author of We're Back: A Dinosaur's Story and Amazon Diary, has done it again! This time he's settled along the zigzagging coast of Ireland, where he stirs up tales of a cranky old witch, an angry sea serpent, and a mean giant. Put it all together and you have the perfect recipe for a concoction that is sure to delight -- O'Sullivan Stew (G. P. Putnam's Sons)!
When the royal tax collectors lay claim to the red-headed horse of Crookhaven's resident witch, Kate jumps to her aid. But she's the only one! The townspeople aren't willing to lend a hand for someone who's "not one of us." The lack of neighborly support sends the witch into one of her famous snits. She exacts revenge in very un-neighborly ways:
"The fishnets came up empty. The cows stopped giving milk. Gardens died. Trees fell on houses with remarkable accuracy. And the rain was heavier than usual. Desperate townsfolk went to the witch to beg for mercy but were met by a sign on her gate DON'T BOTHER -- I'm not 'one of us.'"
Just as a starving Kate is about to boil up her right shoe for dinner, an idea comes to her. She fetches her brothers and father and shares a plan to steal back the witch's horse from the king -- an improbable plan for such an inept bunch. (As inevitable as the failure is, the cause of it is quite a humorous surprise!) Soon the O'Sullivan clan stands before the king, in a bit of a stew!
"Do you even realize the trouble you're in? Have you ever been in a worse spot in your life?" the angry king asks Seamus O'Sullivan, the head of the clan.
Quick-thinking Kate steps in to rescue her stammering father: "I have," she says.
And so Kate begins to tell a series of stories -- each a taller tale than the one before -- explaining how one after another of the O'Sullivans has been "in a worse spot." At the completion of each of Kate's tales, the king is forced to see her point. Indeed, it seems each member of the family has been in a worse spot than they are in right then! But as Kate completes her last tale -- which finds her father rescuing a young mother, her baby, and himself from a giant in a most creative way -- the king must face the fact that Kate is pulling his leg.
"The king looked glum. 'I'd like to agree,' he said slowly, 'if only I could. But you've pushed me too far with this tale about your father. I am tempted to reward you simply for your vivid imagination. But really, Miss O'Sullivan, who in the world would ever believe such a far-fetched story about him?'"
That question sets up one of the biggest surprises in this full-of-surprises tale! But it isn't the last surprise! Not by any means!
Young readers will love O'Sullivan Stew. But, more than that, creative teachers will love it for the rich extension activities it will generate.
Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
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