Children’s Books, Part 1
So, your child is interested in Ireland. While an appreciation for Ireland’s art of music and dance can be obtained by taking some Irish dance classes at SRL (of course,) what about the rest of the country’s culture? We’ve gathered together a few picture books that may intrigue them and will definitely teach them more about Ireland’s rich history and traditions:
1. Fiona’s Luck, Teresa Bateman
Illustrations by Kelly Murphy
This story is an original, but pulls from the ancient legend of one of Ireland’s most beloved myths: the leprechaun. Fiona and her people are newly arrived to the Irish shore, and the Leprechaun King is fed up—these “big folk” are hogging all the luck! When the King locks all the luck on the island away, Fiona and her village face many hardships before Fiona, with intelligence, ingenuity, and a dash of cunning, comes up with a plan to get it back. While both Bateman and Murphy are Americans, the reviews agree that the soft, delicate illustrations really bring Ireland to life. Take a break and let a librarian read this tale to your little one, with Storytime Now!’s YouTube channel (a great resource for many a reading!)
2. This is Ireland, Miroslav Sasek
If your kid is looking for facts instead of flights of fancy, this is the book for you! Part of a series that travels all over the world, Sasek’s history of Ireland for children was originally written and illustrated in the 1960s but has lost none of its charm (don’t worry—anything that needs to has been updated for this century!) This is Ireland is recommended all over as what to read your child before you take a trip to Ireland (one day again, maybe…) as it spans the entire Emerald Isle: from Trinity College to the Blarney stone, from bustling Dublin to peaceful fields of shamrocks. Sasek, primarily a painter, gives an accurate depiction of Ireland while keeping a sense of whimsy with his vibrant, stylized illustrations.
3. Brave Margaret: An Irish Adventure, Robert D. San Souci
Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
Does your child love Disney’s Brave? This is a similar story set in old Ireland instead of Scotland! Margaret is a farmer’s daughter in County Donegal when a ship arrives in the harbor with a young Prince who promises adventure. But when a sea serpent attacks and Margaret is separated from the ship, she finds that she has the strength inside her to defeat monsters all on her own. Truly in the spirit of “girl power,” the author cites his source as a West Irish tale dating back to the 1800s and its timelessness is a must read for children of all ages. A fifth grade teacher recorded a wonderful bedtime reading of this story (in her pajamas,) which you can access here.
4.Tales from Old Ireland, Malachy Doyle
Illustrated by Niamh Sharkey and narrated by Maura O’Connell
Written by a Northern Irish native, this collection of seven fairytales comes with a bonus: the included audiobook was recorded by legendary Irish folk singer, Maura O’Connell. Though this is a picture book, it is a very traditional book of fairytales—make sure to check over the stories for content before your littlest ones start reading or listening (some details of the stories: here.) Complimented by rich, muted borders and a full-size painting for each story, Doyle even includes a pronunciation guide for unfamiliar Irish words and names. Think of Tales from old Ireland as an Irish version of Mother Goose (or maybe, more accurately, the Brothers’ Grimm.)
5. Brigid’s Cloak: An Ancient Irish Story, Bryce Milligan
Illustrated by Helen Cann
Brigid’s Cloak is another tale that harkens back to the ancient days of Ireland, but this one is a classic retold for children’s ears. St. Brigid (along with St. Patrick) is both a historical figure and the patron saint of Ireland in the Catholic tradition, but this story concentrates on one aspect of her legend: her cloak. The fable goes that Brigid was given a beautiful, blue cloak when she was born by a mysterious, Druidic figure. As she grew older and became a kind, charitable young woman, the cloak grows more tattered, but it still harnesses a very special power that allows her to perform a miracle that reflects her generous heart. Reviews all praise the book’s lyric prose and its ability to truly represent the conflicting aspects of Ireland (pastoral, but representing the Pagans, Christianity, and a belief in magic) in a child-friendly way that doesn’t take sides. So, while there are some religious aspects to the story (Brigid meeting the baby Jesus in Bethlehem, for instance,) it concentrates more on Brigid’s famed generosity than her beliefs.
This is Volume IV of a series, read about some Irish Adult Contemporary book recommendations 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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