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Friday, March 16, 2012

Top O' the Book List

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

I only have a tiny bit of Irish heritage in my background, but I've always liked St. Patrick's Day.  I've liked it even more since moving to the Chicago area -- it's a pretty big holiday around here.  My kids and I look forward to it every year!  As with other holidays, we enjoy reading St. Patrick's Day themed books in the days leading up to it -- one of our family's many "green" traditions.

We have two favorite books that we own and reread every year, The Pot of Gold and The Leprechaun's Gold:

The Pot of Gold, written by Lisa Hopp and illustrated by Jerry Smath, 1997...  Lucky the leprechaun will win his very own pot of gold if he passes a test -- finding the ten four-leaf clovers hiding around Leprechaun Land.

When we first bought this book for Emmalie, back when she was two years old, it came with a package of jewel stickers.  She absolutely loved searching for the four-leaf clovers in the illustrations and then placing a sticker in the middle of each one!  Afterwards, even though they were already "marked", she still had fun pointing out the clovers every time we read it.  (My boys have loved doing that, as well.)  The thing I've always liked best about this book is the artwork ~ I love Smath's fanciful pictures!

The Leprechaun's Gold, written by Pamela Duncan Edwards and illustrated by Henry Cole, 2006... Kindhearted Old Tom and Young Pat (who is not so nice) set off for a contest to determine the best harpist in Ireland. Young Tom secretly breaks one of the strings on Old Tom's harp to ensure his own victory in the contest.  Later, when they hear a voice calling for help, only the old man takes pity on what turns out to be a leprechaun.  Later, the leprechaun and his friends repay both men for their actions.

Our family finds this to be a satisfying story, and we appreciate the leprechauns' sense of justice.  In addition to hearing the story every year, my kids also always enjoy looking for the 16 four-leaf clovers hidden throughout the book.

In addition to rereading the books above, each year I search for new St. Patrick's Day stories that we haven't read yet, to share with my kiddos.  Earlier this month I visited the library and did just that.  I came home with a huge pile of them!  Here are the ones that Ben and I enjoyed the most:

A Fine St. Patrick's Day, written by Susan Wojciechowski and illustrated by Tom Curry, 2008... Every year, the towns of Tralee and Tralah compete in a St. Patrick's Day decorating contest.  So far, Tralah has won the trophy every time.  This year, young Fiona Riley (resident of Tralee) has an idea that just might help her town win the honor.  Later, while the towns are busy decorating, an odd little man visits both places.  He asks for assistance each time, but only one of the towns is willing to stop what it's doing and extend a helping hand to the stranger.

I love the richly painted illustrations as well as the sense of community and service toward others conveyed in the story.

Fiona's Luck, written by Teresa Bateman and illustrated by Kelly Murphy, 2009...  The king of the leprechauns is convinced that the "big folks" are using up all the luck in the land.  He orders the luck to be gathered up and hidden away in a treasure chest.  Soon Ireland is suffering from its worst luck ever, the potato famine.  A clever girl named Fiona decides to try outsmarting the greedy king so she can return luck to the land.

I found this to be a charming story, and especially enjoyed Murphy's magical artwork.

King Puck, written and illustrated by Michael Garland, 2009...  Seamus the farmer and his pet goat Finny live a good, if lonely, life on a mountain in Ireland.  Every evening Seamus reads stories from the only book he owns, and wishes he had someone to talk with.  Fairies take pity on him one night, and the next morning, Finny begins speaking!  When the two friends hear about the King Puck Festival, where a local goat is crowned king for the day, they head off to enter the contest.

While I found the wording in this book to be a bit confusing at times, almost as if some of it were missing, I liked the idea behind the story, and Garland's amusing pictures made Ben and I laugh out loud several times!

St. Patrick's Day in the Morning, written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Jan Brett, 1983...  Little Jamie's father and older brothers plan to walk in the St. Patrick's Day parade again this year.  Jamie wants to join them, but they tell him he is still too small.  But what do they know? When he wakes up before the rest of the family, Jamie decides to have a parade of his own!

Kids of all ages will be able to identify with Jamie and his predicament of being "too small" -- they will cheer him on as he proves his family wrong.

That's What Leprechauns Do, written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully, 2009...  Another tale by Bunting, this one follows three leprechauns as they go about their business, burying gold at the end of the rainbow.  Along the way, they make a little mischief for the people and creatures they meet because "that's what leprechauns do".

Ben and I both got a kick out of the mischief-making and McCully's hilarious pictures.

Too Many Leprechauns (Or How That Pot o' Gold Got to the End of the Rainbow), written by Stephen Krensky and illustrated by Dan Andreasen, 2007...  After being gone for a year, Finn O'Finnegan returns to his hometown of Dingle, only to find that there are so many leprechauns keeping the townspeople awake at night (hammering to make shoes for the fairies) that the town is a mess.  Finn devises a scheme to trick the leprechauns into leaving town for good.  Will it work?

Filled with silly pictures, this is an entertaining book.

Traveling Tom and the Leprechaun, written by Teresa Bateman and illustrated by Melisande Potter, 2007...  The fair princess Kathleen has vowed she will only marry the man who can win a leprechaun's pot of gold, for she wants someone with "a daring soul, a keen wit, and a merry heart."  Traveling Tom, a minstrel, wishes to be that man.  When he encounters a leprechaun, Tom uses songs and tales to convince him that gold only weighs down the pocket and does nothing to lighten the heart.

I really liked Bateman's lilting prose and Tom's message about the things that are more important than gold.

Lucky Tucker, written and illustrated by Leslie McGuirk, 2008...  When Tucker the terrier meets a leprechaun, his day instantly gets better.  In fact, now he's the luckiest dog around!

This is a fun story with cute illustrations.  I have not read them yet but McGuirk has created several other Tucker books, as well.

St. Patrick's Day: Day of Irish Pride, written by June Preszler, 2006... Filled with colorful photographs, this nonfiction book tells all about the holiday -- its history, how it is celebrated in Ireland, and how it is celebrated here in the United States.  It talks about shamrocks, leprechaun legends, and St. Patrick's Day parades.  It even provides instructions for making a leprechaun trap! :)

Have you read any of these books before?  If so, what did you think about them?  Do you have favorite St. Patrick's Day books that are not listed here?  I'd love to hear about them!

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