Journey to the Emerald Isle in these satisfying reads

Ireland has a unique way of beckoning to us through stories set among rolling green hills, where mischievous leprechauns and magical wee folk play havoc with the locals. The unexpected often happens, and a dialogue sprinkled with Irish accents and idioms keeps us on our toes.

With such storybooks in hand and a spring in one’s step, a “wee bit o’ luck” is sure to follow, no matter what time of year it may be. Enjoy these selections that are set on or are reminiscent of the Emerald Isle.

A Greyhound of a Girl

By Roddy Doyle

Amulet Books, 2012

For ages 10 and older

The eeriness of this ghost story is offset by the straightforward, comforting text that describes the lives of four generations of Irish females and their bonds to each other. Coping with terminal illness and death, the myriad emotions involved, the dislike of visiting hospitals and ways to help other family members traverse such situations are covered through the characters’ perspectives. A family’s love and shared laughter and the joys of nature help the characters get through the inevitable changes that life brings.

Parents of children and teens who are dealing with death may find this book helpful, as it showcases the thoughts, feelings, comforts and discomforts that people of different ages experience during such times.

Where I Belong

By Mary Downing Hahn

Clarion Books, 2014

For ages 10 and older

This story begged to be included with this group of books because of the depth of “green” found in its pages.

A nearby forest, a magical Green Man and a few long-awaited friends provide refuge and much-needed comfort to a foster boy whose sterile home life and bully-ridden world present many challenges. Brendan, a dreamer and artist, struggles with schoolwork, friendships and trust, and he must find strength from deep within to protect himself and others.

Even though the storyline may sound familiar, Mary Downing Hahn, an exceptionally talented writer, presents this in a refreshingly realistic and personable manner, rendering a boy’s love of the outdoors and admiration of The Lord of the Rings wonderfully.

The Last of the High Kings

By Kate Thompson

Greenwillow Books, 2008

For ages 12 and older

This book has it all — craggy hilltops, Irish farms, wandering goats, ghosts, changelings and fair folk, plus a family of several generations of well-rounded characters. Irish legends and magical creatures are woven into a plot that moves at a steady pace and is filled with plenty of turns and foreshadowing.

Will J.J. (the musically inclined father) and Jenny (a daughter who loves to roam the hills) be able to outwit deceptive, magical beings to save the land and people they love? Will they communicate with each other and join forces or get in each other’s way as they take on evil forces alone? A glossary and bibliography are pleasantly included.

The Irish Cinderlad

By Shirley Climo

HarperCollins, 1996

For ages 6 and older

This male version of the Cinderella story combines many folktales and includes a magical bull friend in place of the fairy godmother. Although the lad’s stepmother and stepsisters ridicule him for his unusually large feet, it is this feature that ultimately distinguishes him from others and saves him from a dreary life of poverty. The gift of an enchanted bull’s tail and the lad’s bravery also benefit him on his journey toward a more ideal life.

The rolling landscapes, frothing sea and clouded, colorful skies add to the fairy tale’s dreaminess, despite the characters’ visual flatness, and the action and conflicts roll steadily to the end.

Green Shamrocks

By Eve Bunting

Scholastic, 2011

For ages 4 and older

An ambitious rabbit plants and tends to his own shamrocks for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. A disaster inevitably strikes, but Rabbit and a friend reach a successful compromise so that both are able to enjoy the parade.

With brightly colored illustrations that complement the widely spaced text, this story will entertain young ones, and it is ideal for activity extensions that invite children to grow their own plants.

Too Many Leprechauns

By Stephen Krensky

Simon & Schuster, 2007

For ages 6 and older

The dark wash that appears over the colorful illustrations of this picture book may have been intended to portray the gloomy skies of Ireland and/or to emphasize the sinister, meddling qualities that leprechauns possess. Either way, the quaint artwork, picturing “their lanterns flickering like fireflies,” is pleasing to the eye.

Fearless Finn O’Finnegan goes head-to-head with these industrious leprechauns who have taken over his hometown, and he initiates a traditional battle of wits. Readers try to guess how Finn will get rid of the noisy, annoying leprechauns, and the results at the end of the story are surprisingly satisfying to all parties involved. This charming tale is as Irish as they come.


By Laura Vaccaro


Roaring Brook Press, 2012

For ages 2 and older

This book provides a wonderful way to teach toddlers about the variety that exists in a single color. Large, simple pictures and clear, oversized text are appropriate for the intended audience, and make this book ideal for sharing with a group or reading one-on-one. Vocabulary words are introduced while providing examples of the many shades of green.

All who read this are sure to be reminded of the complex world we live in. This is an educational and entertaining masterpiece.

St. Patrick’s Day Origami

By Ruth Owen

Rosen Publishing Group, 2015

For ages 10 and older

Brief descriptions of St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland and Irish legends, symbols and creatures accompany instructions for making a Celtic cross, a shamrock, a leprechaun, a pot of gold, a rainbow and a ribbon. Each step in the instructions is paired with a photo, and a website with additional St. Patrick’s Day origami links is listed after the glossary and index.

Children younger than 10 would likely need adult help with these creations. However, this book is a great model for teaching older children how we can combine aspects of different cultures to produce fun new activities and products.

Amy Staples is the youth library assistant at the Fort Worth Library.