Celebrating Cultures, Promoting Integration
Irish children’s books offer engaging stories and colourful illustrations. Plus, they can take a child on a journey across Irish ancient legends and modern fairytales. If you want your child to learn more about Ireland, consider one of these books by Irish authors!
“Best-loved Irish Legends” by Eithne Massey and Lisa Jackson
This book compiles the most-loved and known ancient legends of Ireland. They passed down from generation to generation and were recorded by the Christian monks of medieval Ireland. This collection is quite compact and written in the language that even five-year-olds would love. There are seven stories, including “The salmon of knowledge”, “The children of Lir” and “Oisín”. The original stories are melancholic and even tragic, but in this collection, they are well-adapted for children.
“Irish Tales of Mystery and Magic” by Eddie Lenihan and Alan Clarke
If your children are older and want longer stories, go for this collection of Irish tales. After its first publication, it won as the Best Illustrated Book at CLE Book Industry Awards 2007 and received the Special Merit Award at The RAI Children’s Book Awards 2007. In 2015, the book was published again with new illustrations by Alan Clarke. Though some of the Irish expressions in the book might be difficult for an unprepared reader, you will gain a lot if you take time to understand it. It’s all about plenty of adventures, Irish heroes, druids and magical creatures.
“Irelandopedia: A Compendium of Map, Facts and Knowledge” by Fatti Burke and John Burke
This fun encyclopedia was an Irish bestseller in 2015 and also the winner of an Irish Book Award 2015. Both children and adults will be captivated by Fatti Burke’s enchanting illustrations and her father John Burke’s interesting facts. With this book, you can travel across Ireland, visit all Irish counties and learn about people and culture. Irelandopedia also offers knowledge of Irish geography, animals and nature. Here’s a quote from the back of the book: “Spot the ghosts in Dunluce Castle. Can you find the vanishing lake? Eat a blaa in Waterford and a yellowman in Antrim. Travel to the highest peak and the smallest harbour – even discover which county Elvis Presley s ancestors were from!”
“Granuaile: The Pirate Queen” by Fatti Burke and John Burke
Another book by Fatti and John Burke is a retelling of a famous story. Granuaile was a real historical figure whose original name was Gráinne O’Malley (1530–1603). She was the daughter of a sea captain. Granuaile lived in a castle but spent a lot of time in boats on the sea. She didn’t want to get married and live an ordinary life, so she became The Pirate Queen. This is an inspiring story of a rebel girl’s transforming into a powerful woman. Although there are more books based on this story, this one is the most suitable for younger children.
“The Magic Moment” by Niall Breslin and Sheena Dempsey
“The Magic Moment” is a picture book about overcoming one’s fears and intended for children aged from five to eight. Freddie is happy about going to the swimming pool for the first time. But the moment he needs to go into the water, he gets scared. Nana teaches Freddie a trick called the Magic Moment. It can be used when you’re scared and help you face your fear. Reading this book together can be a great approach for parents to develop their children’s self-confidence. This book was nominated for the An Post Irish Kids Book 2018.
“Fiona’s Luck” by Teresa Bateman and Kelly Murph
Based on an original Irish folk tale, “Fiona’s Luck” was the winner of the 2008 Storytelling Award, 2008 Bank Street College of Education’s Best Books of the Year and the 2008 Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book awards. The greedy Leprechaun King has stolen all the luck from the Irish, so there are no potatoes, milk and eggs anymore. But there’s one girl who has enough courage and confidence to return the luck and good fortune back to Ireland. The most beautiful thing about this book is that Fiona uses her wit and cunning against the Leprechaun King and outsmarts him. Through this book, children can also learn how it’s important to have enough faith in oneself.
“Spuds and the Spider” by Seamus Ó Conaill and Daniele Archimede
This story also has a leprechaun, but a good one. His name is Spuds, and he lives quietly with his wife. The only thing that makes him upset is spiders. But when he meets a spider called Leggers McWeb, they end up being good friends. “Spuds and the Spider” is a touching story that parents can read together with their children. The book has been shortlisted for the Maeve Binchy Travel Award and the Sky Arts Future’s Fund and longlisted for BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines Short Story Competition.
“The Hug” by Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar
Another heartwarming story about two friends finding each other. Prickly Hedgehog wants a hug, but other animals don’t want to hug Hedgehog. A wise owl reveals that animals are afraid of being poked. Yet the owl says, “there’s someone for everyone,” and Hedgehog meets bony Tortoise who also desperately wants a hug. The whole story is told twice, from the perspectives of both Hedgehog and Tortoise, and both storylines end happily with a long-awaited hug.
“Madame Badobedah” by Sophie Dahl and Lauren O’Hara
This book has won a Parents’ Choice Gold Medal in the US. Mabel’s parents run the Mermaid Hotel. Most guests of the hotel are polite and stay for a night or two. But the new guest, Madame Badobedah, looks suspicious. Mabel thinks that the woman is a supervillain. Later on, Mabel and Madame Badobedah become friends. This book tells us that it’s possible to be friends even for people from different generations. Also, the book is written in Mabel’s child-like tone, so the reader enters the world of her imagination.
“The Deepest Breath” by Meg Grehan
The main character is an 11-year-old girl called Stevie. Andrew is her best friend, but despite her mom’s jokes, she knows she will never marry him. In fact, Stevie likes a girl in her school. “The Deepest Breath” has won the Children’s Books Ireland Award as a book about a child’s way of self-discovery. It was also shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Award 2020. This novel-in-verse will be interesting not only for girls who can relate to Stevie but also for everyone who wants to better understand their own and other people’s emotions.
Children’s literature can teach empathy and enhance their imagination from early years. The Irish children’s books mentioned earlier can inspire and share valuable knowledge in a playful manner. Of course, there are much, much more benefits of quality children’s books.
Which of the Irish children’s books did you like the best? Share with us in the comment section below!