Friday, March 11, 2016

3 March books for St. Patrick's Day

March is a month rich with folklore. I am not Irish, but I love the legends and stories that come from the Emerald Isle. Here are three of my favorite books for St. Patrick's Day.

The first is Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato, an Irish Folktale retold by Tomie DePaolo. 

 Check out the book {Here}

I love DePaolo's retellings. They are always silly and magical. The tale begins with "Jamie O''Rourke was the laziest man in all of Ireland." His wife does all of the work. When his wife, Eileen, becomes sick and is confined to bed, Jamie decides he better do something or he will starve. As is often the case with lazy people, however, Jamie still decides to take the easy route instead of resorting to real work. In the middle of the night, Jamie finds a leprechaun, and as the story says, "everyone knows that if you catch a leprechaun, he'll pay for his freedom with his pot of gold." Of course the clever leprechaun tricks Jamie into accepting a potato (called a pratie) seed instead of  his gold.  The seed grows a giant potato, enough that Jamie and Eileen and the rest of the town eat it for the entire winter. In his foresight, Jamie saves an eye of the potato to plant in the spring. The townspeople get so tired of eating pratie, however, that they promise Jamie and Eileen that they will make sure they will have enough to eat from now on if Jamie promises not to plant the seed.

Check out this book {Here}

Our library has 40+ versions of Cinderella from around the world, but this is the only one I know in which a boy is the main character instead of a girl. In The Irish Cinderlad, Becan is an Irish boy whose mother dies. His father is a peddler and brings home a new wife and three stepdaughters one day. They call Becan Little Big Foot because of the size of his feet, and make him take care of the animals. Becan befriends the speckled bull, who turns out to be magic. The bull is slated to become stew, so he runs off with Becan to the edge of another forest. Here the bull tells the boy that his (the bull's) destiny is to be killed by another bull, but Becan is to twist off the speckled bull's tail and twirl it in a circle if he ever needs help, reminiscent of calling on the fairy godmother, but different. Becan herds animals for a gentleman rather than return home. It is here that his adventures happen: meeting a giant, twirling the tail, defeating a giant, wearing the giant's boots (remember the big feet?), saving a princess, and becoming a prince. This would be a good story to use to compare/contrast fairy tales.

Check out this book {Here}

Do you know the difference between Solitary Fairies and Trooping Fairies? How about Leprechauns and Clurichauns? Osborne and Boyce do a nice job in Leprechauns and Irish Folklore of explaining how Irish stories were almost lost to the world, but were preserved by the determination of people like Douglas Hyde and Lady Augusta Gregory. That won't mean much to the students, but I found it interesting. What will interest the kiddos is the various categories of fairies and their descriptions. While reading my library's copy of this book, I found the page on "protection against fairy mischief" heavily dog-eared. That made me smile. I guess some littles wanted to head off problems with fairies by remembering to "wear your coat inside out" and "draw a pig's head on your door." The authors make it clear that the Irish did, and some possibly still do, believe in the existence of fairies, which I think is great for 7, 8, and 9-year-old readers. I also love that the authors include information at the end of the book about how to research fairies. They make a distinction between fiction and traditional folklore, and they include a list of resources to learn more. I plan to share some passages on types of fairies with classes next week.

Please comment below with your favorite St. Patrick's Day books! I would love to add more to my "favorites" shelf.

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