Reviews of children's and young adult books old and new

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Blood Lust from the Dead

Kate Culhane: A Ghost Story illustrated by Michael Hague

This ghost story is a famous Irish tale that was first recorded in 1892 by an American scholar named Jeremiah Curtain. This is the story Curtain was told when he visited Ireland to record the legend and folklore of that country.

Kate Culhane had a hard life, living in a one room cottage with her mother, but after her mother suddenly dies things get even harder. One night, while putting flowers on her mother's grave, Kate hears a strange voice. The voice commands her to dig up the grave she had stepped on. It felt as though she had no will of her own so Kate digs up the grave and opens the coffin. The dead man inside then commands her to take him to the village. He is very heavy but Kate has no choice and takes him on her back to the village. In the village the dead man wants to go into a home and the only home she can find that does not have holy water in it is the home of a rich merchant. (The same rich merchant who has a handsome son Kate wanted to marry.) Once inside the dead man demands food. Kate can only find some dry oats and brings it to the dead man. Not wanting oats the dead man commands Kate to get a knife and take him upstairs. The dead man then bleeds the merchant's three sons until they are pale as snow. The dead man has Kate make a porridge with the blood and then tells her to eat half. In this Kate deifies him, hiding the oat mixture in her scarf and never taking a bite. Getting worried that it is near dawn the dead man commands Kate to take him back to his grave. He tells Kate where he buried his treasure in a field and how to cure the young men because he thinks Kate will have to share his grave with him. Once at the grave though Kate reveals she did not eat of the oat mixture and just as he tries to pull her into his grave the rooster crows and she is able to slam the coffin shut. She makes her way back to the village to find the merchant and his wife grieving their three sons. Kate asks to marry the oldest and for a field if she can cure them. The merchant agrees and Kate gives each of the boys some of the oat mixture, all three are restored to health. The merchant keeps his promise and Kate and the oldest son are married. After a few weeks Kate has her husband dig in the field she was promised and they find the dead man's treasure. They lived happily ever after, always remembering the poor and keeping holy water in their house at all times.

This is a very morbid story. The introduction does warn you of that but I was still surprised while reading it. In spite of that though, I do like it. I think this is a great ghost story for 7-11 year-olds because it has the right mixture of creepiness, gore, and a happy ending. The illustrations are wonderful, they are filled with dark colors and a lot of a sickly green color that reminds you of the dead. The illustrations also serve to make what you are reading seem all the more creepy and vivid. I don't know that I have ever read a ghost story with a happy ending. I really like that concept, you get to be scared for awhile but then in the end it is all O.K. I do love happy endings, so true ghost story aficionados might be upset by the cheery way the story concludes. A great read for around Halloween, The Day of the Dead, or any other time you want a little scare.

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