Shamrocks and all things green will be sprouting this Thursday for St. Patrick's Day, so let's look at our fabulous children's books about the holiday and Irish-American history!
Tome dePaola's Jamie O'Rourke folktales are among his most popular stories, so the fact that he wrote a children's biography of St. Patrick is no surprise. DePaola presents the known facts and even legends associated with St. Patrick; this is a good read-aloud for elementary school children.
Gail Gibbons's nonfiction picture books are ideal for elementary school readers; she manages to make each subject informative and interesting at the same time. St. Patrick's Day is a succinct overview of the history and traditions behind the holiday.
All nations have a storytelling heritage, but Ireland ranks among the top for the sheer vastness of stories about legendary figures. A Pot O' Gold: A Treasury of Irish Stories, Poetry, Folklore, And (of course) Blarney is a handsome collection of tales about fairies, leprechauns, and an Irish version of the Cinderella story (also available as a separate story).
When I get asked for children's historical fiction recommendations (especially if it's for a specific period), I often point them toward the Dear America series and the My Name is America series (also the Royal Diaries series). These series present important periods in history that are appealing and age-appropriate for a broad range of readers. So Far From Home: The Diary of Mary Driscoll, An Irish Mill Girl and The Journal of Finn Reardon: A Newsie follow two Irish-American children during times in which an enormous amount of children, particularly immigrant children, worked under harsh and dangerous conditions.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library