Tales From The Deep by Cerys Matthews and Fran Evans

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Tales From The Deep by Cerys Matthews and Fran Evans

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Keith Dudhnath
Reviewed by Keith Dudhnath
Summary: Cerys Matthews' first children's book adapts two Welsh legends for a young audience. The text isn't as strong as one might hope, but there is still much to enjoy amongst the sparse text and flowing illustrations.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: May 2011
Publisher: Pont Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1848513129

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Cerys Matthews has adapted two Welsh legends - Cantre'r Gwaelod and The Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach - for a young and modern audience. The first tale from the deep, The Ghost Bells of the Lowlands, tells of a drunken watchmen whose carelessness leads to the destruction of a village. The second tale, Myddfai Magic, sees a man marry a beautiful lady of a lake, with the promise that she will leave him if he hits her three times.

Tales From The Deep comes with high expectations. Myths and legends are always great fodder for children's books, particularly legends that are less well-known to a wide audience. However, the stories don't quite grab the attention in the way that, say, the legend of Gelert does. In 'Myddfai Magic, the three times she's hit hardly seem like blows, and thus undermine the strength of the story. (Another telling of it speaks of causeless blows, which, if you can forgive the implication of domestic violence, helps with comprehending the tale). In some ways, the sparseness of the writing adds to the power of each story, but a little more depth to fill in the gaps would sit better with the young audience.

With Cerys Matthews' background as a songwriter (both in Catatonia and as a solo artist), the two poems should be a lyrical treat. There is a strong rhythm throughout, but the rhymes and half-rhymes feel forced:

'Come back,' said Gwyn. 'Please be my wife! This feels extraordinary.' 'Can a fairy girl and a man be wed? Aren't magic ways too scary?

When lake is rhymed with strange and swollen with go now to push the story along, you can't help wishing for a little rejigging. That said, it works much better read aloud than read on the page, so the young audience will have a higher opinion than the adults who read it to them. There is an understanding of what children enjoy - this isn't a feeble celebrity cash-in. The writing is by and large of a high calibre, but not as consistently impressive as you would initially hope.

Fran Evans' watercolour illustrations are beautiful and magical landscapes. The characters have very simple facial features, but they're far from expressionless. The sparse text draws you to pore over the pages, and you're richly rewarded when you discover the lady of the lake's magical underworld. There's a gentle flow to the illustrations that creates a deeply moving atmosphere for the stories themselves.

Tales From The Deep has many positives - pick it up from the library or a have a flick through in your local bookstore to see if it clicks with you.

My thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.

Take a look at our Top Ten Retellings of Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales. For equally magical stories - this time that you create yourself, check out The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg.

Buy Tales From The Deep by Cerys Matthews and Fran Evans at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tales From The Deep by Cerys Matthews and Fran Evans at Amazon.co.uk



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