Sunday, April 11, 2010

Finn the Half-Great review from Children's Book News

Finn the Half-Great
written by Theo Caldwell
Tundra Books, 2009
978-0-88776-931-3 (hc) $24.99 for Grades 7 and up

Fiction--Fantasy--Irish Legends

Theo Caldwell's first novel, based on the legends of one of Ireland's most famous heroes, is entertaining and inspiring. In a finely crafted tale, Caldwell keeps the reader on the edge of his or her seat as he explores the ancient world of Albion.

Finn the Half-Great grows up believing that he is the tallest and greatest person in the Emerald Isle. That is until Finn meets a real giant and struggles to understand his place in the grand scheme of things. When Finn learns of his father's brutal murder at the hands of the Frost Giants, he vows revenge and sets out on an adventure of a life time.

Caldwell's narrative genuinely captures the feelings of adventure, excitement and suspense. The story, though fast paced and plot driven, is full of detail that enriches the experience of the reader. The beautiful cover illustration by Victor Molev reflects the imaginative depiction of the story's central characters, locations and mysteries.

Finn the Half-Great is a thoughtful story filled with humour and mirth that will enchant the reader from the very first page. I look forward to reading the next installment in this series that promises to keep readers spellbound for years to come.

Trevor Froates


By Theo Caldwell
Tundra Books
377 pages
Ages 9 - 12

Reviewed by Steven Stanley
Steven Stanley is a Roanoke fan of fantasy, science fiction and various other genres.

For those who think mythology is a dry, dusty subject with no entertainment value, here’s a book that proves them wrong.

Finn McCool is the greatest hero in Irish history. Theo Caldwell has chosen to tell tales of a Finn never before known. His character has a giant father and a human mother, making him a half-great, some 14 feet tall and tremendously strong. Like his traditional Celtic namesake, he has tasted the Salmon of Wisdom and can call upon godlike knowledge in times of need. Even more importantly, he has a charisma that turns many potential enemies into allies or even friends.

The son of a great warrior, Finn has powerful enemies even before he is born. He is raised in secret by aunts and an uncle, who keep secret the full truth of his heritage. Once he sets out from their remote valley to face his father’s killer, he finds he is only a little fellow in a world filled with huge, dangerous creatures. Taking up his sire’s great red sword, he journeys to Tara in search of allies.
But this is only the beginning. When his bride, Oonagh, is stolen, Finn must gather friends and battle tremendous odds to find her. His enemies are legion and terrible. Along the way, he encounters numerous strange creatures, including the supremely dangerous Jack in the Green, whose inhuman speed and slashing shears have slain innumerable giants.

In his first novel, Canadian-born Theo Caldwell re-creates one of the great mythic heroes in a format that can be read by children. He introduces new elements to the tales that have circulated in Ireland for centuries. Characters such as the wary Escape Goat and the highly sociable Turducken are not mentioned in ancient writings, but they do make interesting additions to this blending of Norse, Irish, and Britonish sagas. What the book lacks is illustrations; with the author’s descriptive powers and light-hearted touch, it seems ready-made for adaptation as a graphic novel or comics series.
If you have children who enjoy fairy tales, “Finn the Half-Great” might well brighten their eyes for a few hours. Come to think of it, this book might brighten adult eyes, too.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Local Author Provides Sassy and Legendary Read

Finn the Half-Great, by Theo Caldwell, Tundra Book, hardcover $24.99.

It’s listed as juvenile fiction, but take that in the same way that Tolkien’s tales of hobbits might also be. Theo Caldwell’s easy-going epic of giants, elves, cyclopes, dragons, sea creatures, humans and other monsters who once ruled Albion (the British Isles) has an appeal for all ages.

First, the title keeps cracking me up. Pythonesque. Next we’ll have tales of Peter the Passable and Hank the Has-His-Moments.

ALL GREAT: Theo Caldwell’s book Finn the Half-Great recounts the tale of a small giant and his adventures in the world of his larger kith and kin.

But Finn the Half-Great is called such for physical reasons: he’s a giant compared to most of us, but not a really big Jack-and-the-Beanstock giant. Only about half that big. So when he leaves his home on Eire to fight real giants and other legendary creatures — usually in what we now call Scotland and England — he has to use his wits. Oh yeah, and a magic thumb. Long story how he got this power, but sucking his thumb gives this small giant some big ideas and tall courage. He becomes quite the trickster in bringing down fearsome foes.

And at crucial moments when he is completely outmatched, his even more clever wife Oonagh comes up with successful stratagems.

Celtic mythology really does feature a large figure variably named Find McCuhuill, Fionn mac Cumail, or Finn McCool (to us English bowdlerizers) who fought demons, was saved by his wife’s wits, and built a stepping-stone causeway from Ireland to Scotland.

But this re-imagining of the fairy tales presents a story much more human (if I may use that word) than found in any old texts. Finn and his friends are quite delightful and occasionally touching in their simple beliefs and drives that get them through the rollicking adventures in Finn the Half-Great.

The reading is easy but not dumb, charming without being sweet. They’re stories into which we can read deeper meanings but don’t have to. Still it’s a dangerous title for an author’s first novel — tempts one to title a review only “half-good”.

But no such fears here. It’s all great fun.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Finn the half-Great appears on The Star's list of kids' books for Christmas

Theo Caldwell reworks traditional stories from Ireland in Finn the Half-Great (Tundra, 382 pages, $24.99, ages 10+), being the epic of Finn McCool, son of a mortal and a Giant. Finn first avenges his father's death by killing Ymir the Frost Giant, then is coaxed out of years of pleasant retirement with his beloved Oonagh when Eire is threatened by mortals. Giants, elves, magical salmon, serpents and sorcerers all have their part to play in Finn's great effort to save Eire and win back his love.

The humour and trickery of Caldwell's sources shines through, lifting it out of the humdrum war stuff of conventional fantasy. "Apart from my thumb-sucking, I'm not sure I have much to offer," Finn protests modestly, hoping to get out of a troublesome quest...

>> Link to article.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reading to a new audience

On Thursday night Theo Caldwell, a regular guest on BNN, CP24, Studio 2 and a frequent contributor to The National Post, came to The Freckled Lion bookstore on Main Street of Georgetown to read his new book, Finn the Half Great to an enthusiastic young crowd. Maya Venters and Timothy Venters were among the youngsters who listed to Caldwell read. The Freckled Lion hosted the very pleasant affair with snacks and beverages and offered a cozy atmosphere to frame the event. The parents seemed to enjoy it as much as the young audience.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On Giants' Shoulders

Hunky banker-turned-author Theo Caldwell pulls a big-wig crowd to celebrate kids' over-sized action hero

Invigorating talk? In no short supply the other night at The Spoke. While crusader Craig Kielburger held me in thrall about his recent sit-down with the Dalai Lama, and politico Peter Kent held forth about the latest calamities in Honduras, the multi-tasking Theo Caldwell -- banker! stud! now, a YA author! -- pontificated fondly on the subject of Irish half-giants.

One particular half-giant, actually: 14-foot tall Finn Mc-Cool, the hero of Theo's recently published fable. "Even though he think he's a giant," the writer began saying in his formal remarks, shortly after being introduced by his pal, Ben Mulroney, "he's really somewhere in the middle." The book, he went on Oprahliciously, is about "being the very best you can be."

Getting out the very best crowd you can get, by the way? Caldwell was doing a-OK in that department. Among those out to fete the president of Caldwell Asset Management Inc. were maybe-mayoral-can didate John Tory, active opinion-maker Andrew Coyne, and lovey-dovey CEO Donna Hayes, Harlequin honcho-ess.

So, why'd this Bay Street turk write the book? Well, he summed it up best when he told,"Investment managers are the folks most in need of inspiration these days." In the same interview, Caldwell said, " More than anything, I want children to read and be challenged by Finn's adventures. If grown-ups want to have a look, too, they're certainly welcome ..."

Shinan Govani - National Post