Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale

Title: Hush: An Irish Princess’ Tale
Category: Historical
Grades: 8-12
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Publisher: Atheneum
Date: 2007
Pages: 308

A plot of vengeance sends Irish princess Melkorka and her little sister on the run for their lives.  Captured by slavers, Brigid manages to escape overboard but Melkorka is left behind.  Desperate to maintain some small power of her own, Melkorka deliberately becomes mute.  While her captors alternately fear her and attempt to force her to speak, Melkorka is busy making friends and learning to survive in the foreign and hostile world of the slave.  But as the months drag on, Melkorka must learn to accept that she may never again walk the fields of home.

Hush is an intriguing tale, but not a terribly exciting one.  It is complex and subtle, and younger readers are likely to find it boring.  Melkorka’s attitude as the snotty, “too-good-for-this” princess, particularly in the beginning, is rather irritating, and while her choice to remain mute is interesting, the tale wanders with no clear direction and a somewhat flat ending.  The book’s interest stems mainly from the fact that it was drawn from a potentially true story of a slave woman who remained mute for centuries and was discovered later in life to be fully capable of speaking.  Napoli imagines her story here, but is hampered by the constraints of the legend.  A fair read, but not one of the author’s best – Bound is a far better story for readers interested in Napoli’s work.


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