A debut children’s book follows a bereaved creature and the people who befriend her.
In this tale, Spaeth transports readers via rhyme to the olden days of the Hebrides. One day, a servant boy named Gad the Zig happens upon a scaly, six-legged beast with a slime-bleeding nose known as a lambergoon. She follows the boy and his Shetland pony, Lull, to the home he shares with Master Hoon, a sorcerer known for his memory-erasing drink called Amnesty. Hoon tries to scare the lambergoon off, then takes shelter with Gad and Lull behind a gate. Soon Aud, the daughter of King Flatnose, arrives by ship to report that the lambergoon killed several men in the Faroes. Hoon agrees to try to tame the creature. They travel to the ravaged village of Faroes, where King Flatnose “looked broken, / Sagging on his throne. / His berserkers had deserted / And his men-at-arms had flown.” Prince Jarl Kraki, now dead, murdered the lambergoon’s mate. The king orders the beast killed, then drinks one of Hoon’s potions. The foursome finds the lambergoon and her offspring hiding in Mount Lokki. They offer Amnesty to the creature as a grief cure. She refuses: “ ‘Put your medicine away,’ she snarled, / ‘My memories of my mate befit him. / They cost me dear to keep, that’s true, / But it’s still worse to forget him.’ ” The lambergoon proposes a truce with King Flatnose, but only if he’ll declare Mount Lokki hers and forbid folks from trespassing. Aud agrees on her father’s behalf. The wondrous tale concludes happily: “So, children, the truce was made, / And it’s held until today; / The goon’s kept to her cave, / Though her brood’s all swum away.” Spaeth’s playful quatrains and debut illustrator Stawska’s vivid artwork make for a delightful children’s story. The fanciful images feature humans with kaleidoscopic skin tones, ranging from purple to green. The author’s luminous descriptions evoke a magical, far-off land: “The forest whirred with warnings: / Owls hooted in their hollows; / Crossbills sang out cerk-cerk-cerk / And toads croaked in their wallows.” Some terminology may be too advanced for younger readers (“rheumy,” “berserkers,” “imbecile”) but the lucid context and striking visuals prove helpful.
A whimsical tale of loss and triumph that should be enjoyed by adults and children alike.