Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Erin go bragh! Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with nonfiction about Ireland and its history, fiction starring Irish and Irish American protagonists, and a little bit of pure blarney, all recommended by The Horn Book Magazine.

 

Picture books

bunting ballywhinney girl Happy St. Patricks Day!In Eve Bunting’s Ballywhinney Girl, Maeve’s grandpa unearths a mummy — common in Ireland, where (a note says) scores of remains have been found. Maeve’s uneasiness at the find turns to empathy for the long-ago girl who, like her, had blond hair. Emily Arnold McCully’s masterful pen-and-ink lines capture Maeve’s feelings; watercolors evoke the lush countryside. This is a sensitive opening to the universal theme of curiosity about death. (Clarion, 2012)

depaola jamie orourke and the pooka Happy St. Patricks Day!In Jamie O’Rourke and the Pooka, Tomie dePaola’s good-humored tale about the folly of counting on someone else to do your work, Jamie O’Rourke, “the laziest man in all of Ireland,” and his cronies have a grand time while his wife is away, but the house ends up a mess. When a pooka, or animal spirit, arrives and cleans the place from top to bottom, Jamie thinks his problems are over. DePaola’s cozy, colorful illustrations are a good match for the lighthearted, rhythmic text. (Putnam, 2000)

wojciechowski fine st. patricks day Happy St. Patricks Day!In the St. Patrick’s Day contest with rival burg Tralah, young Fiona Riley’s idea to paint the town green gives the town of Tralee hope for a win. When Tralee stops painting to help a red-bearded little man in green, it looks like they’ve sacrificed their chance to win. Susan Wojciechowski’s A Fine St. Patrick’s Day is a folk-like tale of kindness rewarded featuring a winning heroine and lots of atmosphere in Tom Curry’s rich illustrations. (Random, 2004)

 

Intermediate fiction

dowd kathleen Happy St. Patricks Day!A light hand, sharp wit, serious social issues, and a hint of subversion are ingredients in Siobhan Parkinson’s lively Kathleen: The Celtic Knot [Girls of Many Lands series]. Times are hard for Kathleen and her family, who live in a crowded tenement in 1930s Dublin. Her opportunity for advancement comes when an unexpectedly kind nun recommends Irish-dance lessons. Well-contextualized Irish words and phrases are further defined in the appended glossary; historical notes and photos are included. (AmericanGirl, 2003)

giff nory ryans song Happy St. Patricks Day!Patricia Reilly Giff’s Nory Ryan’s Song recounts the tragic days of Ireland’s mid-nineteenth-century potato famine. Twelve-year-old Nory’s struggle to find food for her family brings her to the outcast village wise woman, where she overcomes her superstitions to learn the art of healing. Reflective rather than suspenseful, this first-person narrative allows the reader to become an eyewitness to history. This is a story of raw courage that ends hopefully if not happily. Look for sequels Maggie’s Door (2003) and Water Street (2006). (Delacorte, 2000)

 

Older fiction

dowd bog child Happy St. Patricks Day!In 1981, eighteen-year-old Fergus finds a body of a girl from the Iron Age in the bog between Northern Ireland and the Republic. He dreams about her while struggling to focus on exams as his brother, a political prisoner, begins a hunger strike. Parallel themes of sacrifice and resurrection dominate the imagery of Siobhan Dowd’s novel Bog Child, and the suspense sustains momentum. An author’s note gives background. (Random/Fickling, 2008)

heneghan grave Happy St. Patricks Day!After construction workers discover a mass grave in his schoolyard, thirteen-year-old foster child Tom falls — or is pulled — into the excavated grave. He emerges from the darkness to find he has traveled through time from 1974 Liverpool to 1847 Ireland. Tom’s colorful first-person narrative in The Grave by James Heneghan describes the era of the great potato famine with honesty; his time travel experiences also provide some clues to his family background. (Farrar/Foster, 2000)

 

Nonfiction, Poetry, and Folklore

bartoletti black potatoes Happy St. Patricks Day!In explaining how repeated years of blighted crops decimated Ireland’s huge subsistence class, Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine draws on an impressive array of sources to give faces and names to those who suffered and to those in positions of influence in Ireland and England. Added materials include a map, time line, and discussion of sources. Numerous archival prints add haunting evidence. (Houghton, 2001)

brown across a dark and wild sea Happy St. Patricks Day!A picture book biography based on the Irish legend of Columcille, Don Brown’s Across a Dark and Wild Sea emphasizes the love of books and learning that helped preserve Western civilization during the Dark Ages. The text is lilting; the sentences vary in length and intensity to make it suitable for reading aloud. The design (with calligraphy by Deborah Nadel) is dramatic, and Brown’s illustrations are almost dreamlike in quality. An informative author’s note is appended. (Roaring Brook, 2002)

depaola patrick the patron saint Happy St. Patricks Day!In Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland, Tomie dePaola separates his narrative into two sections: the first, a biographical account of Patrick’s life; the second, a compilation of legends. The uncluttered illustrations are reminiscent of murals in their emphasis on essential elements of the narrative. The whole is a well-executed treatment of an appealing subject. (Holiday, 1994)

doyle one two three oleary Happy St. Patricks Day!Malachy Doyle gathers together seventeen Irish playground rhymes for calling someone out in One, Two, Three O’Leary, a tale about the O’Learys and their ten children. Illustrator Will Hillenbrand depicts the family as bouncy and jolly, with bright colors against white backgrounds. The premise of the book is quite ambitious (a story told completely in nonsense rhymes), but the pictures tie the rhymes together to tell a lively bedtime story. (McElderry, 2004)

doyle tales from old ireland Happy St. Patricks Day!In another collection, Tales from Old Ireland, Doyle retells seven of his favorite tales, beginning with “The Children of Lir,” one of the best loved of Irish tales. “Lusmore and the Fairies” warns of the need to respect supernatural powers; “Fair, Brown, and Trembling” is a Cinderella variant; other tales are deeply rooted in Celtic mythology. Niamh Sharkey’s illustrations are richly colored like illuminated manuscripts. Thorough source notes are included. (Barefoot, 2000)

snell thicker than water Happy St. Patricks Day!While sharing a common Irish heritage, the voices and styles of the well-known and award-winning writers gathered in collection Thicker than Water: Coming-of-Age Stories by Irish and Irish American Writers, edited by Gordon Snell, are as refreshingly diverse as those of any top-notch short story collection. A strong sense of place, from a tiny island off Ireland’s west coast to a roadhouse in West Texas, is the common thread of these growing-up stories; that, and the strength of the writing. (Delacorte, 2001)

souhami mrs mccool and the giant cuhullin Happy St. Patricks Day!Irish folk-hero Finn McCool hides behind his clever wife in Jessica Souhami’s Mrs. McCool and the Giant Cuhullin: An Irish Tale, a teasing tale of two cowardly giants. When Finn sucks his magic thumb, he can see fierce Cuhullin, who has his own magic finger, coming after him. Finn runs home to his wife, who hatches a plan to fool Cuhullin and deprive him of his magic finger. Both the light, playful text and vividly colored art are well matched to the comic tale. A well-made source note is appended. (Holt, 2002)

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Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, assistant editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College.

Comments

  1. Great collection here. I always use TIM O’TOOLE AND THE WEE FOLK by the beloved and exceedingly talented Gerald McDermott with my classes for St. Patrick’s Day but I own and also use the excellent de Paolo, Doyle and Wojciechowski books you feature here in this terrific post!

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