Irish Interest

   The Irish have observed St. Patrick's Day for over a thousand years. March 17th, the anniversary of St. Patrick's death in 461, falls during the Christian season of Lent. In the past, Irish families would attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon-with Lent rules relaxed for the day, people would eat, drink, and dance-in some ways, not much has changed over time.

   March is a great month to explore Irish history, culture, and its peoples. The Irish have a long and rich history; originating in Ireland around 8,000 years ago. Now, an estimated 80 million people of Irish descent live all over the world-the largest number of which live in the United States (around ten times more than in Ireland). The selections below are recent examples of fiction and nonfiction with Irish themes.

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Contributor: Emily Griffin


Ask Amy Green: Summer Secrets
Sarah Webb

Can life get any worse for thirteen-year-old Amy Green? Her boyfriend Seth has left for Rome while she has to spend two weeks on an Irish island coping with her very dysfunctional blended family. In-depth descriptions of the area and use of the Gaelic language help to make the setting feel authentic. Amy is saved from her plight when Clover, her teenage aunt and a teen advice columnist for Goss magazine, receives an assignment to travel to America. Her task is to interview and write about an emerging young actor, Matt Munroe. Matt is America's teen heartthrob, but he has a secret. Clover takes Amy to Miami with her. Is America ready for these two teens? They take Miami by storm! During their interview, the girls learn who Matt really is, particularly that he is not a teen. They promise to keep his secret. He later admits his real age on Oprah and talks about his Irish rather than American heritage. Goss magazine then gets the first post-Oprah interview. Subsequent events help Amy to have a better life once she returns to Ireland. This book is the second book in the "Ask Amy Green" series, following Boy Trouble. 2011, Candlewick, Ages 12 to 14, $16.99. Reviewer: Annie Laura Smith (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780763650711

Colleen Sexton

Ireland is one of many countries written about in the "Exploring Countries" series, part of the larger "Blast Off" reader's series offered through Scholastic. There are five levels in the series ranging from the low level of sight words to level five, which is for fluent readers. The country flag for Ireland is displayed on the front cover. The castle on the cover will entice readers to explore more of Ireland's great pride. The book serves as a general-interest reading book, and it can also be used as a research tool. There is a plethora of information regarding Ireland's geography, major cities, population, agriculture, natural resources, manufactured products, sports, education, animals, occupations, languages and much more. Each page contains easy to read facts with corresponding real-life photographs. In addition, there is a glossary of important terms, an index and more text and web sources about Ireland are also listed. This book is great to use as a geography curriculum or as a supplement to other classroom curriculums already in place. 2011 (orig. 1967), Bellwether Media/Scholastic, Ages 8 to 12, $22.00. Reviewer: Laura Pastuszek (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 978-1-60014-483-7 ISBN: 978-053126464-5

Irish Alphabet
Rickey E. Pittman
Illustrated by Connie McLennan

Irish Alphabet" offers "Ce'ad mi'le fa'ilte." or one hundred thousand welcomes from Ireland through the Irish alphabet. In these beautifully illustrated pages of scenes from the Emerald Isle, every letter of the alphabet is paired with an Irish word, place or object that is miniaturized as a background for the decorated or illuminated printed capital letter. We are reminded of the work centuries old of Irish monks who preserved many beautiful holy manuscripts through the long Dark ages of Europe. Thus A is for Aran Islands, B is for Blarney Stone and Brian Boru, C is for the Celtic Cross, and D is for faerie Dullahan. All letters' stories are written in verse and vividly illustrated. A lot of history is packed into each letter, for example: "K is for County Kerry/ For Kilpatrick, and Castle Kilkenny/ And for the hated Kilmainham Gaol,/ Where the English imprisoned many." Perhaps my favorite letter is "Y is for W. B. Yeats/ Who wrote poetry and plays/ He was Ireland's famous bard/ And we read him still today." Y is accompanied by a sepia portrait of the famous author and a ball of green yarn. Parents and children will love "Irish Alphabet," whether they are Irish or not. At the end of the book is a glossary with more historical information, the thirty-two counties of Ireland, and lyrics to "Molly Malone," for M. A beautiful alphabet book that teaches the love all things Irish. The ABC Shelf/Pelican Publishing Co, Ages 5 to Adult, $16.99. Reviewer: Midwest Book Review (Children's Bookwatch, April 2011)

Megan's Year: An Irish Traveler's Story
Gloria Whelan
Illustrated by Beth Peck

Megan's Year: An Irish Traveler's Story is a volume in the "Tales of the World Series" from Sleeping Bear Press, which partners with another series titled "Discover the World" to make fictional stories from exotic lands available to young readers. "Megan's Year" is about a girl in a family of Irish Travelers, whose parents migrate through parts of Ireland, seeking seasonal and other work during the summer months. There is a Summer Megan and a Winter Megan. The Summer Megan travels in the caravan with her family moving from job to job and living off the land with other Travelers. The Winter Megan returns to government housing in apartments in Dublin, and attends St. John's National School. Sometimes other girls are unkind to Megan at school, calling her a dirty tinker. The Sisters (teachers) try to teach all children to show charity. Megan misses her summer life in the winter school days. Megan's family is descended from Irish farm folk who were forced off their land by English landlords and the potato famines. Today about 25 thousand Travelers, or Travellers, as they are called in Ireland and England, lead an itinerant life style seeking seasonal employment and moving about. They have their own culture and a unique secret language called Gammon. "Megan's Year" introduces students to a different life style and some of the expressions of Gammon, while describing a year in the life of a young girl. "Megan's Year" is both compassionate and honest in its representation of the life of the Irish Travelers today. "Megan's Year" is highly recommended for students ages 6-10. The Multicultural Shelf, Sleeping Bear Press, Ages 6 to 10, $16.95. Reviewer: Midwest Book Review (Children's Bookwatch, December 2011).
ISBN: 9781585364497

The Scorpio Races
Maggie Stiefvater

Puck is the first girl to run in the annual horse race, but this is no ordinary race and these are no ordinary horses. Set on an island, the story is based loosely on an Irish myth about wild horses that live in the sea. This riveting and suspenseful story expertly weaves myth with reality. The story is told alternately from two points-of-view, those of Puck and Sean Kendrick. Once a year the islanders race the water horses, or capaill uisce as they are called. The capaill uisce run unlike any land horse and are very strong. They are hard to tame and will kill man or animal if given the chance. Puck and her two brothers lost their parents when they were pulled into the ocean by a water horse and never seen again. There is big prize money for the winner of the race. Puck must win--their home is on the line. The islanders are superstitious and don't want a girl to ride. No one will support Puck except Sean Kendrick. Sean works for Benjamin Malvern's ranch. He breaks in land horses and knows how to communicate with the capaill uisce. He trains and races a red water horse, Corr. They won the last four races together. Puck decides to ride her land horse named Dove. Despite the danger as water horses prey on land horses, Puck, on Dove, and Sean, on Corr, train together. Just before the race, Sean and Mr. Malvern make a deal. If Sean wins he will be able to buy Corr. If he loses he must never ask for Corr again. Corr is as close to Sean as family. Sean must win to get Corr but Puck must win to save her home. Suspenseful, compelling, wonderful visual descriptions with strong characters make this book hard to put down. 2011, Scholastic Press, Ages 13 up , $17.99. Reviewer: Loretta Caravette (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780545224901

Updated 2/28/12

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