Booktalk for AN ILLUSTRATED TREASURY OF SCOTTISH MYTHICAL CREATURES by Theresa Breslin

scottish mythicalLong ago, when giants roamed the earth, there lived a great big Irish giant by the name of Finn MacCool, and an even bigger great big Scottish giant called Benandonner.

The two giants couldn’t see each other across the channel separating Ireland from Scotland, but they could hear each other. They would stand on opposite shores and bellow insults across the water.

“You’re a tumshie!” one would shout.

“You’re a bigger tumshie!”

“Well, you’re the biggest tumshie of all.”

One day the giants got so enraged at being called a tumshie one too many times, they challenge each other to a fight. Finn MacCool says he’ll build a bridge so Benandonner can get across to Ireland.

The thing is, Finn MacCool doesn’t know how very big the Scottish giant is. When he sees Benandonner coming, he has to look up, up, up. There’s no way he can fight this giant. Finn MacCool turns on his heels and flees, crying, “Benandonner is coming, Benandonner is coming!” It’s going to be up to his wife to get him out of this mess.

Genre: nonfiction / mythology

Grades 3-7.

Anna’s take on it:

When I booktalk this title, I often start out by asking the class if they’ve heard of the Loch Ness monster in Scotland. Most have. I tell them that Nessie is one of the many mythical creatures featured in the stories in this book—others include giants, witches, selkies, fairies, and great winged beasts.

After growling, “You’re the biggest tumshie of all,” I pause and scan the room. Almost invariably, someone will ask the question that needs to be asked. “What does tumshie mean?”

“Tumshie,” I reply, “is an old word for turnip—the root vegetable—and it makes a very good insult.”

Initially I wasn’t sure whether I would see much interest in this title, but as I got more comfortable with my booktalk—especially hamming up the giants’ turnip insult war—I found that students responded really well.

The book’s illustrations are definitely appealing. One fourth grader was so charmed by them, he wanted to show me all the intricate details he’d noticed, including how an anchor around the Loch Ness monster’s neck looks like a necklace and a rescue float is a ring on its tail.