Title: Between Worlds: Folktales of Britain & Ireland
Author: Kevin Crossley-Holland
Illustrator: Frances Castle
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Older children/middle grade non-fiction, Mythology – Folklore
Book format: Paperback
Description: Ancient, rich and strange, these magical and eerie tales from across Britain and Ireland have been passed down from generation to generation, shaping our landscape and culture. This definitive collection, retold by master storyteller and poet Kevin Crossley-Holland, opens a doorway to a lost world and shows the enduring power of language and imagination.
*Free copy provided by publisher for review…
Review: This is such a brilliant book for anyone interested in some strange fairy/folk tales of Britain and Ireland. The book is seperated into different sections and each contains a wealth of different folk tales, some of which you may have heard of and some of which you haven’t. There’s such a range of different stories of different lengths that there’s bound to be a favourite for everyone in here, from tales featuring fairy people and boggarts to legends of knights, silly villagers and even strange ghostly happenings!
The book begins with a list of pronounciation, which is good as I had no idea how to pronounce some of the names in the stories, followed by a contents listing every story. After that each section containing individual folktales, is based on a different area, such as magic and wonder, adventures and legends, love, ghosts, etc. Each of these sections has a double page before the tales begin with a beautifully illustrated image in black and white. After that each folk story has its own little image and a lovely folliage pattern running at the bottom of each page.
Every story in this book is interesting to read although I will say that some felt easier to read than others. The earlier stories are harder to get into, for me at least, especially as the way some of them are written are more old fashioned and felt like, in some tales, the text jumped suddenly from action to action without a proper break (in some senses similar to the way some bible stories just jup ahead in time), a couple of others which were poems, or written in a poem style were also a little harder to get into for me. The earlier stories are also longer than a lot of the later ones so if you struggle at first to enjoy this book I’d suggest diving into some other tales first. Each story is interesting though and some of them felt more powerful and fun to read than others. There’s a real mix between the very magical tales and silly stories of things that happen and I love the fact that both types of tale are included here.
Some of the stories were recognisable to me, even the very second story about three heads in a well is something I recall hearing or reading in the past. It’s amazing how many of these folktales felt familiar to me and some of them even felt like re-written versions of some well known ones, such as Mossycoat being an obvious copy of Cinderella (although we don’t know for sure where the tale originated from before it was eer written down). Some of the stories, like ‘Mossycoat’ I really enjoyed, especially as it felt like a better version of the Ceniderella story. Some stories felt like fun adventures, while others were so funny they made me laugh out loud. My favourites in this book are ‘The Pedlar of Swaffham’ which is a good adventure story with a very good ending and is a little funny, and ‘The Wise Men of Gotham’ which is the silliest collection of very short tales of some very ridiculous people!
The illustrations in this book are really beautiful and definitely add to the magic of reading this. The text is smaller than in some books (although not too small) so it can seem daunting to read so much but the illustrations for each tale really make this feel like a more fun read and I enjoyed every picture, admiring them both before and after reading the story they belonged to. I also can’t help but love the section images which feel so beautiful and also that running border along the bottom which just makes the book feel all the more special and in some ways beautiful in the way some old-fashioned books are. At the back of the book are some detailed author notes on where every single story comes from and what the author did, if anything, to add or change it. This was some very valuable information and I liked being able to understand what some of the tales are about or where the inspiration comes from – I was was especially excited to hear that the idea from ‘The Pedlar of Swaffham’ goes back to the 1400s! There is also a concluding tale which isn’t a traditional folktale but one from the author called ‘Evnoi’ which was just in the style of the other stories and made for fun reading.
I’ve always loved folktales and learning about them so this wasn’t a difficult book for me to get into, but even if you’ve not heard that many folk tales I’d still recommend this book for anyone to read, children or adults. Some of the tales are a bit weird, and may not sit well with younger kids who read them, such as in one story, in part of the tale there is the idea of killing someone and stripping the flesh from their bones (it did sound a bit ew) but most of the stories are not so bad although keep in mind that folktales can get a little weird. It’s a book I’d recommend to dip into and pick a story to read, especially as so many of them are little more than a page or two long and you might just find a tale you like or can recognise in more modern books today!
Do you like folk or fairy tales? What tales can you recall hearing when you were younger? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂