It’s almost time to don our green and celebrate all things Irish! One of my favorite ways to enhance the celebration of holidays like this is to stock our shelves with themed reads to enjoy together as a family.
Here are seven books to enjoy with your wee ones this St. Patrick’s Day.
‘The St. Patrick’s Day Shillelagh’ by Janet Nolan
Illustrated by Ben F. Stahl, this lovely story takes place during Ireland’s potato famine, when young Fergus and his family leave their beloved homeland and head to America. On the journey over, with tears in his eyes, he whittles a beautiful shillelagh out of a branch from the blackthorn tree at home. (A shillelagh is a thick stick, typically made from blackthorn wood and traditionally used as a weapon in Ireland.)
The story illustrates how the shillelagh is passed down throughout Fergus’s family, and how the tale of his journey to America is shared each St. Patrick’s Day with the shillelagh in hand, for generations. A beautiful testament to the importance of family and tradition, and to the familiar immigration story of so many Irish, “The St. Patrick’s Day Shillelagh” is a treasure.
‘The Leprechaun’s Gold’ by Pamela Duncan Edwards
Here’s an entertaining tale of two harpists in Ireland who enter a music contest. One is young, dishonest, and selfish; the other is old, kind, and generous. When they encounter a leprechaun in peril on their journey to the competition, magic and a bit of leprechaun trickery lead to each getting his due. “The Leprechaun’s Gold” illustrates the virtues of selflessness and kindness, making this a standout in this collection.
‘Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk’ by Gerald McDermott
This is a fun tale about a little Irish family, struggling to make ends meet, and their encounters with leprechauns. When Tim O’Toole heads out to “earn wages” for his family, he instead encounters a band of leprechauns who give him gifts that promise to make his troubles go away. His easy turn of luck turns out not so easy, however. “Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk” is a light-hearted and fun read for St. Patrick’s Day.
‘St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning’ by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Jan Brett, “St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning” is an enjoyable picture book for young ones. First published in 1983, it’s a charming story portraying a boy’s determination and independence in the face of others’ doubts. The theme, relatable any time of year, is set amidst the lovely traditions of the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day and a perfect read the weeks leading up to it.
‘Patrick Patron Saint of Ireland’ by Tomie DePaola
This book introduces children to the life of Saint Patrick. An educational and thought-provoking read, DePaola presents the story of the compassionate and faithful man in a child-friendly way, illustrating why March 17 is known as St. Patrick’s Day. The book also includes summaries of some of the legends associated with Saint Patrick, such as driving the snakes out of Ireland and illustrating the Holy Trinity with the leaves of a shamrock.
‘St. Patrick’s Day’ by Gail Gibbons
A basic rundown on the holiday, “St. Patrick’s Day” briefly describes the life of Saint Patrick, the customary ways people celebrate and their origins, along with the different symbols of St. Patrick’s Day, and gives an overview of some legends associated with the saint. Well-presented and educational, you’ll be glad you picked this one up.
‘The Story of the Leprechaun’ by Katherine Degen
Round out this St. Paddy’s Day collection with a fun tale about a clever leprechaun who manages to keep his gold hidden. Illustrated by Sally Anne Lambert.