The Salmon of Knowledge

Starfish Bay. Apr. 2019. 36p. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781760360702.
K-Gr 2–In this lackluster retelling of an old Irish legend, nine hazelnuts fall into the well of wisdom and make their way to a river where a salmon eats them, becoming the repository of all knowledge in the world. Though many people try to catch the salmon in order to eat it and gain “all the secrets of the world,” they all fail—only the wise poet Finnegas persists in trying. While he pursues the elusive fish, he takes on a student, Fionn, who must study with a poet in order to become a warrior. When Finnegas finally catches the salmon, Fionn accidentally tastes it while cooking, thus gaining all knowledge and leaving his teacher as he has nothing further to teach him. The author’s choice to make Finnegas rather than Fionn the main protagonist of the tale detracts from the story’s impact as there is no mention of Finnegas’s fate after Fionn leaves him. Explanation of Fionn’s importance as one of Ireland’s most renowned heroes is also missing from the tale, save the brief sentence that “[he] became the greatest and most knowledgeable warrior in all the land.” Buckley’s quirky googly-eyed collages might appeal to the youngest audience, but instead of making the story more accessible, appear at odds with the more serious tone of the legend’s text.
VERDICT An earnest attempt at bringing a great story to life but one that will leave most readers disappointed

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