Author: Eve Bunting
Illustrator: Holly Berry
Publisher: Harper Collins
Image Source: Fantastic Fiction
Come summer, the Seattle area fills up with farmer's markets. There is live music, stalls selling fresh flowers, sweet berries, kettle corn, people in bright summer clothes, curious toddlers by their side and babies peeking out of strollers. This past summer, rain or shine, we visited at least one farmer's market a week. We adored the liveliness and the energy in these weekly events so much that we resolved to do it every summer, year after year. We have made it our summer tradition.
So when my 5 year old and I read Market Day, we were reminded of the sounds and sights from a couple of months ago. Market Day talks about a similar monthly market in a small Irish village.
We walk through a hilly Irish village with Tess and her friend Wee Boy, spotting horses, color coded sheep (to match with their owners!), squeaky clean pigs ready for sale, sweet stalls selling unheard of, but delicious sounding treats. We see a variety of entertainment, from a sword swallower to a somersaulting monkey. We see a woman selling Donegal lace and "Tinker", the pots and pan repairman.
The authenticity of the text completes the Irish experience. Words such as ha'penny (half a penny), Wellies (Wellington boots), sweeties (candy), dearie sound like a tempting addition to my everyday vocabulary!
The undercurrents in the story are not to be missed. There is pathos in how the Jehosophat the coal walker, whose feet look like "corrugated paper", walks on coal hot enough to boil tea, all just to make a living. There is humanity in how Tess spends one half of her allowance on a bagpiper who doesn't have any spectacular shows, and the other half to cheer up her friend.
I did have one crib with the illustrations. In a picture book, we have come to expect pictures to follow the text precisely. While they did for the most part, there were at least two separate instances when we noted they were not correlated.
But this tiny oversight does not take the light away from the main objective of the book which is to give us a sample of a lively Irish tradition. As Market Day proves, a tradition could be as simple, delightful and satisfying as spending the day at the market with your very best friend, the first Thursday of every month.