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Tam Lin

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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 Horn Book

32 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1990

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About the author

Jane Yolen

884 books2,872 followers
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 Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Born and raised in New York City, the mother of three and the grandmother of six, Yolen lives in Massachusetts and St. Andrews, Scotland.

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5 stars
212 (35%)
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239 (40%)
3 stars
126 (21%)
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6 (1%)
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11 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 59 reviews
Profile Image for Marquise.
1,660 reviews225 followers
November 28, 2022
To date, this is the best adaptation of the Scottish ballad I've found. It is lyrical even when it's in prose, thanks to Jane Yolen's amazing storytelling talent, and brags very gorgeous artwork as well by Charles Mikolaycak, one of the greatest book illustrators ever in my opinion.

I love Mikolaycak's style so much, I find it reminiscent of Trina Schart Hyman's style, another favourite of mine. It follows the text very well, too, which in Yolen's version is the story of a Scottish clanswoman called Jennet MacKenzie who, bent on reclaiming her heirloom of Carterhaugh Castle, goes there and finds the fairy knight Tam Lin, whom she falls in love with, and on Halloween night rescues him as he's passing by the Miles Cross well on his way to be sacrificed. All the important details are here, with some modifications, like that Jennet isn't pregnant here (but it's implied they were doing things). The book includes a short note by the end explaining the ballad and a bit of history for those unfamiliar with it as well.
Profile Image for Manybooks.
3,008 reviews104 followers
March 1, 2021
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 from his fate of having been designated as a likely fairy sacrifice to Hell this Halloween), and thankfully and fortunately also without Jennet simply appearing as headstrong and heedless, as just wanting to go against her parents' wishes that she stay away from the by the fairies enchanted and cursed MacKenzie manor of Carterhaugh for a dare, for adventure and rebellion. For Jane Yolen clearly shows and depicts with Tam Lin that Jennet MacKenzie does very much understand her parents' fears and trepidations but that she also and nevertheless feels a moral and ethical obligation to both reclaim Carterhaugh for her family and then later, once she has met and fallen in love with Tam Lin, that she also absolutely has to, that she totally must attempt to save her true love's life by fighting against the Fairy Queen, by releasing him not only from fairy bondage but also from his fate of being a probable sacrifice to the Devil.

With a delightfully understated ending showing that after Tam Lin's release by Jennet (who successfully fights off multiple vicious animal enchantments cast by the the Fairy Queen to reclaim her lover for both humanity and of course also for herself), the two end up married, with Jennet also restoring the MacKenzie family manor of Carterhaugh to its former beauty and glamour, and I guess the only minor question I do have regarding both Jane Yolen's retelling and yes the entire Tam Lin themes and ballads is that personally I do wonder how Tam Lin post his release does not immediately turn aged and feeble. For Tam Lin was originally taken and enchanted by the fairies more than a century ago when Jennet's great grandfather was still alive and Carterhaugh a thriving manor, and indeed, most tales of enchanted humans being either rescued from the fairies or returning from the fairies that I have read to date generally do seem to end with the released and/or returned humans immediately ageing and often even dying upon once again being part of human time (but this is obviously not at all the case with and in the Tam Lin ballads and I do wonder how this has been achieved, whether for example, Jennet's use of holy water and earth not only protects both Tam Lin and her from the wrath and power of the Fairy Queen during battle but also might then prevent Tan Lin himself from immediately and terribly ageing upon his release back into the land of the living, into the realm of humanity).

Combined with Charles Mikolaycak's bright, colourful and gloriously Scottish accompanying illustrations (which shine with descriptiveness and imagination but also with very much cultural background and historic reality and detail), Tam Lin truly is a both successful and magical marriage and combination of text and images (with Jane Yolen's informative author's note on the Tam Lin ballads and yes, on how they are so special and different folklorically because unlike in the majority of traditional ballads relating disenchantment and release of humans in bondage to the fairies, in Tam Lin it is a woman and not a man, it is a heroine and not a hero who does the releasing and rescuing being the absolute icing on an already delicious cake for me, although yes, it would also be nice if instead of just having those appreciated quotes from some of the many Tam Lin ballads presented, Yane Yolen were to also include a separate bibliographic list, with literary sources, titles, publication dates and the like).
Profile Image for Cheryl .
8,908 reviews391 followers
December 17, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Vidya.
23 reviews12 followers
March 9, 2013
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. Other than that, the tale is sweet and romantic. I've heard people call this tale a little more on the mature side - the most mature thing I noticed was a tiny bit of nudity, and I've seen more adult content in the Grimm fairy tales. Jane Yolen does a beautiful job painting the story with her words, and Charles Mikolaycak complements the story as well with his gorgeous illustrations. In particular, I like the one representing the stages of Tam's transformations.
Profile Image for Tiffany.
306 reviews
June 21, 2018
Quick retelling but a good one. I really enjoyed the author's note and the illustrations as well.
Profile Image for Sarah.
143 reviews4 followers
May 30, 2019
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 the castle is the ancient home of Jennet's family. She brings Jennet's desire to reclaim that heritage front and center.

And Yolen drops the traditional bit where Tam Lin creeps on all the girls who pass by the castle. Thank goodness. Yolen's Jennet is ready for the #MeToo era, and she ain't going to risk life and limb for a sexual harasser, no matter how hot.

You go Jennet, and Jane too!
Profile Image for Set.
1,556 reviews
September 17, 2019

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 have done every seven years since the day they stole me away."
Profile Image for Amanda.
212 reviews17 followers
March 4, 2013
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 Scottish clan chief, deemed unweddable "for she always spoke what she thought." It is her desire to help restore her family, coupled with her disregard of conventions, that causes Jennet to decide that her first act as an adult of age would be to reclaim Carterhaugh. Once Jennet makes that declaration to her parents, Yolen's Tam Lin continues down the familiar and well-trodden path of early versions.

Most interesting are some of the ways in which Yolen alters the tale to make it suitable for her young audience. Carterhaugh is not a danger to maidens in particular, as all children are warned to avoid the land and ruined castle full of horrible smells and strange shadows. Mantles and rings are still lost to the mysteries of Carterhaugh, but not as explicit payment to the fairies. No mention is made of a Tam Lin who keeps to the woods of Carterhaugh, although Jennet's parents do tell her that the land now belongs to the Fair Folk. Jennet's decision to travel to Carterhaugh is partially driven by her desire to prove that she's brave, partially by the desire to reclaim the land that should still belong to her family. And, once she learns about his plight, Jennet's decision to save Tam Lin is not driven by any sort of instant attraction. When Tam Lin reveals that only his own true human love can save him, and that all those who loved and cared for him have long since died, Jennet resolves to save him herself: "If no one else in this human world loves you, then I must."

The Fairy Queen has a more active role in this version, which really highlights Jennet's struggle to reclaim Tam Lin to the world of the living. Even before a physical test of strength in which Tam Lin changes into three forms within Jennet's arms, Jennet is subjected to an emotional test of strength. First the Fairy Queen offers Jennet money, then jewels, and, finally, ownership of Carterhaugh. Having the Fairy Queen interact more with Jennet and Tam Lin, instead of simply cursing their ability to save Tam Lin, makes the power of the fair folk all the more deadly.

I loved how this picture book seemed to be more about helping children in our culture today visualize and understand the story of "Tam Lin" than about Yolen taking many authorial liberties in this version. Images, such as the one pictured here, place a heavy focus on Scottish plaids and other reminders of the Scottish setting. Red and green colors are heavily used throughout the book. The focus on Scotland, however, is not nearly as significant to this tale as is the focus on the characters. The scenery pales in comparison to the characters, which are generally brightly attired and given a central prominence within the images.

At the end of the story, Yolen gives a little background on the original tale and how we can understand it. As I mentioned in my review of Susan Cooper's picture book Tam Lin, most authors of retellings seem to use the "by" tagline. For Cooper's and Yolen's picture book versions, however, the authors each use a "retold by" tagline. It makes me wonder about whether the picture book format makes authors more likely to stick closely to the original tale.

With all that in mind, how do I think that Tam Lin fared? I found Yolen's deviations from the original tale both interesting and relvant to the audience. I loved the intense focus on Scotland and Scottish culture. Yolen's version is a treasure of a retelling.
Profile Image for Marsha.
Author 2 books32 followers
April 2, 2016
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 story than a tale about a lost family plot. That aspect—which I’d never read about in other versions of this fable—is an adjunct to the titular account. Jennet finds herself drawn into the woe of Tam Lin, a handsome young man, unfortunate enough to catch the eye of the Fairy Queen and whisked away by her to dwell in her realm. Blessed with eternal youth and treated with the immortality that comes to all who go “under the hill”, Tam Lin is desperate to escape from the dread queen…and there’s one feisty redhead who can help him.

The illustrations are colorful and strongly reminiscent of those of Trina Schart Hyman, with the same unruly hair, swirling clothes and casually lovely faces. They aptly accompany the elegant prose retelling of this famous ballad.
Profile Image for Mary.
643 reviews1 follower
May 27, 2013
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, and only his own true human love can save him. Jennet says, "Then I shall save you! or die as I try. If no one else in this human world loves you, then I must."

This retelling of Tam Lin is well-written and beautifully illustrated. Jennet is a strong and fiery heroine, and the drama of the original ballad has been made appropriate for a younger audience. No mention of maidenheads or killing bonny babes, which are both topics I would rather avoid at storytime.

Recommended for fairytale enthusiasts and anyone interested in Scottish folklore.
Profile Image for Jared.
577 reviews32 followers
June 6, 2011
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 warnings not to. She summons Tam Lin by accident and learns that he is to die within the week on All Hallows' Eve. She determines to save him.
2 reviews
June 8, 2009
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 story-line. It all works. Five stars!
Profile Image for Mandy.
419 reviews
March 16, 2013
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.
Profile Image for Ms. Kelly.
402 reviews9 followers
March 28, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Leland.
151 reviews31 followers
April 16, 2009
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.
Profile Image for Liz Baker.
22 reviews
February 18, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Maia.
Author 27 books1,938 followers
June 25, 2018
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.
204 reviews1 follower
February 11, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Megan.
2,048 reviews8 followers
August 9, 2017
Nicely illustrated version of an ancient Scottish ballad with a strong female lead.
Profile Image for Allyna.
47 reviews60 followers
February 22, 2019
The story of Tam Lin is so beautiful! The illustrations are gorgeous, and it is well written. I love this book.
Profile Image for Marilyn.
625 reviews5 followers
September 25, 2020
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 the world of the Fey. Charles Mikolaycak's illustrations are gorgeous! And Jane Yolen's notes on the tale give depth to the telling.
Profile Image for Lexlingua.
17 reviews8 followers
January 18, 2021
Cross-posted from my more detailed review at Lexlingua.co

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- / mythology- themed books (mostly for children/ young adults), giving them that perfect “otherworldly” look.
Profile Image for Molly Cluff (Library!).
2,344 reviews30 followers
January 11, 2022
When I saw this on the shelf at my library I thought "I totally forgot this story existed." It's got some dark and bizarre elements in it, but overall I like it. A woman goes back to reclaim her homeland that has been taken by the faeries and ends up in a mission to reclaim a human man the faeries took. I feel like it would be fun to do a modernized song based on the old ballad.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
4,554 reviews177 followers
November 2, 2021
I can't remember if I actually read this title, but I'm noting it here for the illustrations by Charles Mikolaycak. I know I read a lot of books with his artwork and cover design as a kid, and I can never think of his name.
Profile Image for Sasha.
868 reviews8 followers
March 14, 2021
I really enjoyed this! The artist took liberties with the clan and plaid, but otherwise, Yolen did a bang-up job of staying true to the fey-filled tale.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 59 reviews

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