Children’s Books, Part 4
With summer vacation just now getting underway, there’s a lot of extra time to fill for all our SRL parents! We’re here with some book recommendations for our littlest dancers (aka picture books) to help keep your child’s interest on Ireland and Irish dance over the break while entertaining them. (Maybe it will even inspire some practice!) Enjoy!
1. The Irish Cinderlad, Shirley Climo
Illustrated by Loretta Krupinski
This one is an incredible mash-up, with a twist to boot: not only is it a reimagining of Cinderella mixed with Irish folklore—it’s a gender-swap with a male protagonist! Becan’s always been worried about his big feet, but his worries multiple when his father remarries and his stepmother and her three daughters treat Becan cruelly. Becan runs away to escape a life with only bread crusts to eat and toiling in the field, and finds himself on a grand adventure. With a magical bull for a fairy godmother for help, Becan defeats creatures out of Irish lore and rescues a princess—running off and leaving only his remarkably large boot behind. When the princess is searching the kingdom for the owner of the giant boot, Becan wonders: what will be his fate when his feet give him away? This book has overwhelmingly positive reviews on Goodreads and Amazon for its mix of familiar fairytale with Irish myth (and for being one of the rare fairytales that centers on a male!)--get a preview with this video of the book being read out loud!
2. Kathleen O’Byrne: Irish Dancer, Declan Carville & Brendan Ellis
Books about Irish dance are rare, and we’ve covered a few already in previous posts (check out part 2 or some holiday gift ideas for more,) but if you look hard enough you can find a few hiding out there on the internet! This one tells readers about a young Irish dancer named Kathleen, who practices her jigs, reels, and hornpipes any available moment of the day. Kathleen longs to wear an embroidered dress at a feis like the older dancers, and she’s absolutely crushed when she’s told she isn’t quite ready for that step. However, with the help of some neighborhood friends, she learns how to deal with disappointment and that the most important part of Irish dance isn’t the costumes or competitions, but the joy the art can bring her and others! This very important lesson for any Irish dancer to learn is complimented by beautiful illustrations painted by medical illustrator Ellis and even has a special feature about the history of Irish dance!
3. Fin M’Coul: The Giant of Knockmany Hill, Tomie dePaola
Tomie dePaola’s books are all classics for multiple reasons: his iconic and instantly recognizable illustrations, his ability to translate the mythology of a multitude of cultures for little readers, and his ability to fill any lore with charm, kindness, and grace. This ALA Notable Book is no different as dePaola tackles one of the most iconic stories in Irish mythology: Fin M’Coul and the creation of the Giant’s Causeway. When Fin M’Coul is spending his days in peace on Knockmany Hill when he’s challenged by the Scottish giants across the sea. M’Coul spends his days building a causeway to go confront the Scottish when he learns that a much bigger and stronger giant, Cucullin is the one waiting to fight him. Terrified, M’Coul tells his wife Oonagh of his fears, and she comes up with a clever plan full of magic and cunning to save her husband. Along with the detailed borders based on ancient Irish metalwork, you can’t get more Irish than this! (And don’t miss dePaola’s other Irish books: Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato and Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland.)
4. Irish Dancer: Oireachtas, Katherine Monahan
Illustrated by Katy Jackson
That’s right, we managed to find not one, but two books about Irish dance! For our Irish dance parents a little newer to the world, let us explain the second part of the title: Oireachtas (pronounced, roughly, ee-ruck-tuhz) is a larger dance competition for dancers competing at a higher level (a step above a feis, let’s say—you have to qualify to compete!) Monahan is a veteran Irish dancer who started dancing at 9 and ended her career by attending the Oireachtas World Championship in Ireland, so you know she knows her stuff! Accompanied by Jackson’s lively illustrations that help capture the unique movements of Irish dance out in the wider world, this story follows an Irish dancer as she practices and prepares for a big competition. But it’s not just about competing! It’s about determination in reaching your goals, as well as the happiness, confidence, and the strength that comes from the incredible artistic sport of Irish dance—a must read for our future World Champs! Listen to Monahan talk about her book on The Irish Dance podcast here.
5. A Pot O’ Gold: A Treasury of Irish Stories, Poetry, Folklore, and (of course) Blarney, Kathleen Krull
Illustrated by David M. Phail
With a classic illustration style that will remind parents of the nursery rhyme treasuries of their childhood, Krull’s collection tackles the huge historical, mythological, and literary lore of the Emerald Isle. Combining everything from beloved recipes and stories to timeless poems by Yeats and Joyce and traditional songs (never forgetting those bits of blarney all the way through,) this collection is meant for families to enjoy throughout the years together. These tales and this rich history has engaged imaginations throughout the world for thousands of years—and these legends of everything from leprechauns and faeries to the real life culture of Ireland helps continue the tradition. A truly unique volume for both its expansiveness (over 50 individual entries!) and its effectiveness, this is one that every generation can enjoy together.
This post is part of a series. Read our last modern Ireland post, all about Irish slang, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
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