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Tam Lin

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  568 ratings  ·  55 reviews
A young girl triumphs over the Queen of Faeries to reclaim her ancestral home and free her true love in this haunting retelling of an old Scottish ballad. “Mikolaycak’s illustrations...attract attention yet do not overpower the story, making the book one that could be easily used as a picture story book presentation for middle- and upper-grade or even adult audiences.”-The ...more
Paperback, 32 pages
Published April 15th 1998 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published 1990)
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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 ·  568 ratings  ·  55 reviews

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Lyrical and with its occasionally almost song-like prose often hearkening back to the original Tam Lin ballads, Jane Yolen's Tam Lin truly and glowingly is a lovely and wonderful retelling of the latter (and their thematics), giving strong and for a picture book delightfully developed and nuanced personalities to both Jennet (Janet) MacKenzie and Tam Lin (the enchanted fairy knight and erstwhile human Jennet must release and rescue not only from his fairy captivity but also and more importantly ...more
To date, this is the best adaptation of the Scottish ballad I've found, lyrical even when it's in prose and with very gorgeous artwork as well. Love Mikolaycak's style a lot, so reminiscent of Trina Schart Hyman's, another favourite. ...more
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michael is right; those of us who love the art of Trina Schart Hyman would also enjoy that of Mikolaycak. Yolen tells this old story beautifully, and includes a good author's note. ...more
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read a lot of fairy tales, folklore, and mythology, so, while I'm no means an expert on all the world's cultures, I don't come across tales I haven't already heard at least a variation of very often. This was one of those tales.

Based on an old Scottish ballad, this tale sets itself apart in that it's the heroine who rescues the hero, rather than the other way around. Jennet is a strong heroine, determined to have her way, and I just don't see that kind of woman often in these old stories. Othe
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Quick retelling but a good one. I really enjoyed the author's note and the illustrations as well. ...more
Feb 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Absolutly beautiful illustrations.
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous illustrations and well-retold story.
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Jane Yolen is the Instagram filter of feminism.

Give Jane Yolen an outdated tale. She'll brighten the female characters here, deepen their challenges there. Result: a much more colorful and relevant story.

Case in point: Tam Lin. This is an old, old legend. The story deals with the brave young Jennet, and how she rescues a captive hunk named Tam Lin from some wicked fairies.

In the original ballad, we don't know why Jennet wanders by the castle where Tam Lin is held. But Yolen tells us that t
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing

This is an old Irish ballad of the rightful heir of Carterhaugh taken by the Fey and a beautiful captive of the fairy queen. It's a beautifully illustrated fairy tale book perfect for Halloween.

"Neither and both, Jennet. This Halloween, as on all solstice moonlight is the only door between them. Through that door the Fey can cross at will. Over the moors, past Selkirk town, down to Miles Cross where the holy well stands, the Fey shall ride this Hallow's Eve, and I shall ride with them as I hav
I ended up enjoying both the "Tam Lin" picture book retellings that I read. There's something about conveying the simplicity of the original tale through the picture book medium that works very well (and I believe this is true for all fairy tale and fable retellings). The stories themselves may remain rather simple (but never simplistic), but the accompanying images help to convey more than words ever can.

As always, Yolen keeps the focus of her retelling on Jennet MacKenzie, the daughter of a S
Powerful heroines seem to abound in Irish folklore (good for them!) and Jennet MacKenzie is no exception. A forceful redhead (which also seems to abound in Irish folklore), she is determined to regain her family inheritance. She flies into the face of convention, caution, family advice and the local spooky tales that frighten off everybody else. She’s truly inspiring to read about as she takes her place in the panoply of heroines who charge in where others fear to tread.

But there’s more to this
In this verson of Tam Lin, children are warned against going to Carterhaugh, a strange and forbidding piece of land said to be inhabited by the Fairy Folk. Headstrong Jennet is not afraid. She says, "I will go when I am old enough to win back Carterhaugh for our clan." In the woods of Carterhaugh, she plucks a single rose and in so doing, summons Tam Lin, a mortal captured by the Queen of the Fairies and set to guard Carterhaugh. He tells Jennet that the Queen plans to offer him as the teind, an ...more
Jun 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
A rather short picture book with the story of Tam Lin. The illustrations are colorful and interesting, and the story is well -- if briefly -- told. Tam Lin is a young man who was stolen by the faeries several generations back. At the same time, the great house near where he was captured was abandoned and children were cautioned never to go there.

Jennet, whose family owned the land on which the house stood, returns to the house on her sixteenth birthday to reclaim her inheritance, despite warning
Jun 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Oh my. How I love this book. If you love Shakespeare... literature, for that matter, gorgeous old universities (ha!), fairy tales, Yolen and Tam Lin... I feel that you would love this book. Some people feel that the people are unrealistic and over-the-top with their manner of speaking (quoting literature/poetry all the time), but I truly know people much like this (though many quote The Princess Bride, etc), and I adore them! Plus, the manner of speaking the characters have is crucial to the sto ...more
Mar 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: readers of fairy tales and childrens books
This is a retelling of a Celtic legend of Tam Lin. Tam Lin is trapped in the world of the fey and only Janette (there are variations of her name) can save him if she can do as he instructed.

It's a story of love and trust and faith.

I love it the moment I began to read it. The illustrations filled the pages. As the story weaves through the night, you end up rooting for her to succeed.
Ms. Kelly
Girl power of the olden variety!! Love it!

The story follows classic motifs of being captured and saved, but the hero is a 16 year old girl who is confident and knows exactly what she wants. I love it.

The fact that it's an old story makes me love it even more.

Yolen always does great work, and this re-telling is no different.

The art is lovely. I like the notes about how they created their own plaid.
A vivid retelling of the traditional Scottish Ballad with moderately interesting illustrations. The illustration looks to be `from the 1960's when in fact they were done in 1990). Jane Yolen is one of the masters of children's literature and her prose reworking of this traditional song is a testament to her talent.
Liz Baker
Feb 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I was given this book when I was really little, and I remember not understanding it, or at least, knowing what the general gist of the book was, but the details passed over my head. It's a picture book, obviously, but I definitely still enjoy it, and now I can appreciate it for both the beautiful illustrations and the fantastic story. ...more
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-book
A gorgeously illustrated picture book version of a well-known Scottish ballad. This story has been retold many times and expanded into full length YA and adult novels. Jane Yolan's version keeps to the bones of the song, and is elegant in it's simplicity. ...more
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-book
A young girl triumphs over the Queen of Faeries to reclaim her ancestral home and free her true love in this haunting retelling of an old Scottish ballad.
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Nicely illustrated version of an ancient Scottish ballad with a strong female lead.
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The story of Tam Lin is so beautiful! The illustrations are gorgeous, and it is well written. I love this book.
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’ve read this book to children and grandchildren for years. The art is captivating and and so is the story.
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully illustrated, wonderful retelling of the fairy tale/ballad "Tam Lin" about a young woman who must rescue her true love from the Queen of the Faeries. ...more
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is far and away my favorite of the picture book retellings of the ballad of Tam Lin. Jane Yolen honors the old ballad, but tells the story in her own lush, poetic way. As in other versions for children, the question of a sexual encounter and pregnancy are left out, but the danger of Tam Lin being a human sacrifice on Hallow's Eve stays in. Jennet is outspoken, determined, and resilient. The Fairy Queen tries unsuccessfully to bargain with her. Yolen even explains how Tam Lin came to be in t ...more
Jan 18, 2021 rated it liked it
Cross-posted from my more detailed review at

This is a 36-page short story, a literal translation of one of the many Scottish ballads ever written on Tam Lin (since 1549!). Young Jennet MacKenzie wins back her family estate at Carterhaugh and frees the ensorcelled human enslaved there for a 100 years, back from the wicked Fey.

The main highlight of the book is the illustration work by Charles Mikolaycak. I sniffed around for more of Mikolaycak’s work; he had illustrated many folklore-
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ages 6 and up. A Scottish ballad wherein a headstrong young maiden rescues her true love from the clutches of the evil faerie queen. In the end, she wins both his freedom and her clan’s great stone castle back. Not suitable for easily frightened children.
Aug 20, 2011 rated it liked it
I bought and read this book because of the book The Dogs of Babel. The ballad on which this story is based is interspersed throughout the Dogs of Babel, and I thought the ballad (or at least the part in the book) was so beautiful that I had to find out more about it. It's definitely a great children's story that centers around the ballad and if your interested in Scottish folklore, you should check it out. ...more
Jessy Woolsey
Oct 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: folklore
Out of all of the fairy tale books I read this week I found this one to be the most unique. Unlike all of the others, a female is the main character who saves the male character. I thought the bold paintings throughout were fantastic. The images let the readers feel the setting. This Scottish ballad has both a dark side, as well as the fairy tale happily ever after in the end. I loved it.
Jun 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book caught my attention back in college with three huge factors- it was by Jane Yolen, whose Briar Rose I was adapting for my senior project; obviously, because a fairy tale re-telling; and finally, she chose MacKenzie, a family name, for the heroine's name.

It is a beautifully told and illustrated version of one of my favorite fairy tales.
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Jane Yolen is a novelist, poet, fantasist, journalist, songwriter, storyteller, folklorist, and children’s book author who has written more than three hundred books. Her accolades include the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Awards, the Kerlan Award, two Christopher Awards, and six honorary doctorate degrees from colleges and universities in Massachuset ...more

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