A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles, first book in a new series by veteran screenwriter and first-time novelist Thomas Lennon, is a zany foray into Irish mythology and present-day culture -- with booze, smells, disgusting bodily fluids, and magical mayhem on practically every page. It's not your grandmother's Tir Na Nog (land of the faeries) here, as the geeky but determined 15-year-old hero takes on drunken or otherwise substance-addled leprechauns and other rotten-to-the-core magical beings. Kids at the bathroom-humor and gross-out stage will find plenty to keep them entertained -- and that's just one element of the constant barrage of craziness, slapstick, spookiness, and chaos leading to the cliff-hanger ending. Violence incudes sinister magical beings eating humans and otherwise doing deadly, gruesome things. Punching, kicking, and bashing with shillelaghs -- sometimes to the point of breaking bones or other body parts -- are all part of the slapstick. A character who drowns early in the tale keeps popping up as an annoying ghost.
What's the story?
As RONAN BOYLE AND THE BRIDGE OF RIDDLES opens, it's the 15th birthday of the title character, who's been under the wing of and working for the local garda (Irish for police) ever since his scholarly but fuzzy-headed parents were framed by the wee folk and sent to prison. Now, due to being the smallest and skinniest member of the force, he's sent to the Secret Garda, whose thankless mission it is to keep the wee folk in line, and who immediately need someone really skinny to slither down a pipe and rescue a stolen baby from the leprechauns. With the dauntless, formidable Captain Siobhan de Valera and brave garda wolfhound Lily, he's soon off to Tir Na Nog, the magical kingdom that's home to leprechauns, churichauns, gancanaghs, trolls, and a whole lot of other characters whose lives seem to revolve around whiskey, spells, theft, and troublemaking.
Is it any good?
Shillelaghs fly, whiskey flows, and foul odors fill the air as first-time novelist and Weird Al screenwriter Thomas Lennon pits his geeky teen hero against the leprechauns. Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles launches a new series set in the magical land of Tir Na Nog -- but not the sweet, sentimental version you might have heard about before.
"Like all Irish children, I had heard of the wee folk -- leprechauns, far darrigs, harpies, and such -- and that they love mischief and they come from Tir Na Nog, which is the land of the faerie folk. But like most sensible children, I always imagined that this was a bunch of made-up blarney -- stories invented and embellished in pubs by glassy-eyed old-timers who were pissed as farts on rum and punch.
"But let me assure you, ... Tir Na Nog is a real place.
"And the wee folk are not a friendly pack of elves who will fill your shoes with candy while you sleep. They are small, hard-working swindlers who would steal your nose and replace it with a turnip if they thought they could make one single euro from doing it."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Irish mythology and magical legends in Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles. What other stories do you know based on Irish myths? What do you think has kept these stories alive for centuries -- and how do you think this novel fits in?
Have you ever been to Ireland, or watched any movies or TV shows set there? What did you see, and what did you think of it? What's fun about a story set in another country?
One thing that comes up here is that people in the U.S. and Ireland often use different words for the same thing, like the Irish say "lift" when Americans would say "elevator," or "torch" instead of "flashlight." What other examples can you think of where the same thing has different -- English -- names in different countries?
- Author: Thomas Lennon
- Illustrator: John Hendrix
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
- Publication date: March 5, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: October 30, 2020
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