12 Favorite Children's Books for St. Patrick's Day

 

St. Patrick's Day is a rather fun day at our house, since I love all things Celtic. My kids' favorite tradition is also one near and dear to the hearts of blarney-loving Irish everywhere - a good story, well told. And my kids are doubly-pleased because around St. Patrick's I'm seized with an uncontrollable urge to speak with my horrible high-school-drama-class brogue. 
And nowhere is this impulse more prominent than in reading fantastic Irish folktales to my kids! So around the week of St. Patty's, we check out our favorites from the library to join with a couple that we luckily own already, I whip out my best terrible accent, and I read to the lads and lassies till joy fills their wee little hearts.  Here are our absolute favorites, organized in categories based on the traditional story pattern or theme:

Trickster Tales: 
Wits win the day!


 Fiona restores Ireland's luck by beating the Leprechaun King.  This story has all the classic elements of cleverness and resourcefulness that Irish folktales prize, and it's fun that the hero is a girl - and that she wins by being smart!  This one is my youngest daughter's top pick and very favorite.  It's adorable to hear her little voice repeating, "you've no luck at all!"
This one MIGHT be my personal favorite.  It's hard to say though because I like them all so much!  O'Sullivan Stew combines so many elements of Irish traditional folk tales - the importance of generosity and helpfulness, the value of a tale well told, wit & ingenuity wins the day, and all that wrapped up with a spirit of adventure and magic! Kate O'Sullivan is a brilliant character who goes out on a limb over and over for the sake of others, and it's her great wit and big heart that make her such a success.  No leprechauns here, but a great Irish tale!
Fin M'Coul's wife, Oonagh, helps him outwit his arch rival, Cucullin. Fin M'Coul is to Ireland what Paul Bunyan is to America - there are many tales of how his undertakings shaped the mountains, rivers and lakes of Ireland and Scotland.
Though I read somewhere that this is actually a Scottish tale, it is officially CELTIC, so I'm counting it!  Especially because it is just so amazingly delightful.  It is basically Rumpelstiltskin, but the illustrations, as you can see from the cover, are whimsically beautiful, and the language is musical.  I defy anyone to read it without slipping into a brogue or a burr!  Just a sample: "I dinna wish to hear old news and idle gossip, goodwife," responded the woman.  "I know ye've lost your goodman - the fingers o'hard times pinch us all now and again."

It takes a lot to outwit leprechauns, but when Finn O'Finnegan comes home to find his town weary of the constant shoemaking of a band of the wee folk, he undertakes to solve the problem.  My kids liked the tiny shoes, and were fascinated by the trick Finn plays on the leprechauns.  Cute book - lots of fun leprechaun details - but not one of my favorites.



Leprechaun Magic:
Everyone always gets what's coming to them


This story is so sweet! Hard working, good hearted Donald O'Dell - in a recurring leprechaun tale pattern -  saves the life of a little green man, but refuses the reward of gold.  He has enough for his needs and does not desire riches.  The Leprechaun, however, will not be daunted!  He seeks a creative way to pay Donald back and we learn both that goodness is rewarded, and that there are things in life more valuable than gold.  (I admit, I'm not a huge fan of the illustrations in this book - the pictures don't thrill me the way some of the others do.  But the story is well worth the read)
Two towns compete for the St. Patrick's decoration trophy, and they take it very seriously.  When a stranger comes to both towns asking for help, which will matter more, the competition or helping out? This delightful story about service, caring and priorities actually makes me a little bit teary-eyed, silly as I feel about it.  I adore the good people of Tralee, sure and begorra!  I'm not familiar with Susan Wojciechowski, but I'm definitely going to try to find more of her writing after reading this one.  This is my oldest daughter's top pick.
For stories about Leprechauns, you can't get much better than Tim O'Toole!  These are the wisest and most delightful little fairy folk ever.  Tim, on the other hand,  is hopelessly daft, which is exactly what makes for the humor.  Top St. Patrick's pick by my boys.
In a favorite theme of generosity of spirit being rewarded, this is a  lovely tale of aging master and his haughty apprentice who resorts to spite to prove he's outpaced his teacher - but of course, lessons are learned by all through the help of the fair folk.  I liked the element of music in this one, since it music is so central to Irish culture.

Folk Tales:
Tomie DePaola is always a favorite author, but when it comes to telling cultural tales, he is an absolute master!  One of the most important element in Celtic trickster tales is timing - it's as important as it is in a good joke.  And all of the Irish tales Mr. DePaola tells get the timing perfect to capture the humor along with the story and the moral.   In this story, Jamie O'Rourke, the laziest man in Ireland gets more than he bargained for.
  Jamie O'Rourke returns and learns a lesson in laziness when his wife leaves him with the housework for a week and  he tries to get out of it with the aid of a magical pooka.

Modern Day Celebration:

One of the few more modern day St. Patrick's books, this cute story resonates most with a younger audience, since it is the story of little Jamie Donovan who, as all younger siblings, has been told he's too little.  In this case, it's he's too little to walk in the town's traditional St. Patrick's parade.  He rises early to prove them all wrong.  This is a sweet book, but I have to admit, my kids preferred the magical tales better.
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