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Finn McCool and the Great Fish

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Cover art of children's picture book Finn McCool and the Great Fish

Finn McCool and the Great Fish

Sleeping Bear Press

The Bottom Line

Author Eve Bunting and illustrator Zachary Pullen's retell an Irish legend in the picture book Finn McCool and the Great Fish. The book provides an affectionate and amusing look at the giant Finn McCool, known far and wide both for his kindness and for not being very wise. This is the tale of Finn McCool's search for wisdom and how he obtained wisdom, not through violence, but through kindness. Finn McCool and the Great Fish is a good book to share with ages 4-8, perhaps as a St. Patrick's Day family read aloud.
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  • Entertaining Story
  • Humorous portrayal in illustrations of contrast between size of giant Finn McCool and Irish people
  • Kindness is rewarded.


  • No afterword, with information about the original tale, just that the picture book is a retelling


  • Title: Finn McCool and the Great Fish
  • Author: Eve Bunting
  • Illustrator: Zachary Pullen
  • Length: 32 pages
  • Recommended For: Ages 4-8
  • Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
  • Publication Date: 2010
  • ISBN: 9781585363667
  • Categories: picture books, folktales, folklore, legends, Ireland

Guide Review - Finn McCool and the Great Fish

Finn McCool and the Great Fish: The Story

What makes Finn McCool and the Great Fish such an entertaining picture book is the seamless meshing of the words by Even Bunting and the pictures by Zachary Pullen. Each double-page spread includes a single painting that completely covers both pages and on which the text is embedded in white. Much of the humor comes from the illustrations. The contrast between the giant Finn McCool's huge size and the size of the ordinary people of Ireland is humorously portrayed by Pullen. The tone is affectionate as the tale begins with an emphasis on Finn McCool's kindness, yet the Irish villagers acknowledge that "He's a bit of a turnip head...He doesn't know much."

On a quest to find wisdom, Finn McCool visits an old man who is rumored to know where wisdom can be found, although he has always refused to tell anyone, keeping it a secret. When Finn McCool asks the old man for wisdom, the man asks Finn why he needs wisdom. Finn's reply - that he wants to use it to help the people of Ireland - convinces the old man to share his secret.

The old man tells Finn McCool to go to the River Boyne and catch, cook and eat the large red salmon that lives in the river. How Finn McCool's kindness prevents him from killing the fish yet results in his gaining wisdom makes an entertaining, and heartwarming, story.

Finn McCool and the Great Fish: Eve Bunting and Zachary Pullen

Author Eve Bunting's more than 250 children's books include a number of picture books on serious subjects, such as The Wall, which is about a father and son's visit to the Vietnam Memorial. Consequently, I was somewhat surprised to find that she was the author of this light-hearted retelling of an Irish legend. It made more sense to me when I learned from her publisher, Sleeping Bear Press, that "in 2002 she was chosen to be Irish American Woman of the Year by the Irish American Committee of New York."

Artist Zachary Pullen is an award-winning illustrator of children's books. Some of books he's illustrated include The Toughest Cowboy, The Greatest Game Ever Played and Casey and Derek on the Ice. Pullen is also the author and illustrator of Friday My Radio Flyer Flew.

Finn McCool and the Great Fish: My Recommendation

I recommend Finn McCool and the Great Fish for children ages 4-8 and as a family read aloud for a broader age range. I'd also recommend Finn McCool and the Great Fish as a classroom read aloud for grades 1-3.
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