Sunday, March 1, 2015

St. Patrick's Day, Part 1


When I was a little girl, on the night before St. Patrick's Day, my dad would remind me (in his best Irish accent) that the leprechauns would be visiting that night.  Not just any leprechauns, mind you, but O'Shaunessey, O'Toole and O'Day.  They would tiptoe into my room and leave a small gift on my bed and I relished this tradition.  With my own children, I colored all of our food and drink green on St. Patrick's Day.  I can still picture Michael's little face, peeking into the pan as I prepared Cream of Wheat for breakfast.  I would add the grain to the milk, wave my spoon over the pan and say the magic words, "Bibbidi bobbidi boo!" and stir.  The Cream of Wheat would turn green and he would be delighted.  Sigh.

Despite the fact that every single holiday is now blown completely out of proportion - who ever thought that teachers would be making leprechaun traps with their students, making green eggs and ham, teaching math with Lucky Charms, and sprinkling glitter and stamping tiny footprints all over their classrooms - I love reading holiday books with my students.  It brings a playful element to the classroom that is too often missing as we spend our days preparing them for test after test after test, and they spark some interesting conversations.

Today I want to introduce the first four books in my St. Patrick's Day series:

St. Patrick's Day - written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons
Gibbons specializes in nonfiction for children and she has it down!  This book gives simple, factual information about the origins of St. Patrick's Day and the different ways in which it is celebrated.  The last few pages contain brief synopses of the various legends about Saint Patrick.  Her illustrations are bright and clean, perfect for young readers.  If I could add one thing to this book, it would be pronunciations for the Irish words.

The Leprechaun Under the Bed - written by Teresa Bateman, illustrated by Paul Meisel
Loner leprechaun Brian O'Shea likes peace and quiet, so he is understandably distressed when Sean McDonald builds a home right on top of his comfortable burrow.  Over time, the two develop an unlikely friendship that benefits both of them.  I enjoyed the fact that the main character doesn't become a greedy tyrant once he figures out a leprechaun is living under his bed.  He considers it to be luck he can't afford to lose, so he begins to feed the leprechaun and the mischief comes from outside the walls of their home and that's a nice twist.  Click here to read an interview with author Teresa Bateman.

That's What Leprechauns Do - written by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
A group of leprechauns see a storm coming and set off to move their pot of gold to the end of the rainbow.  They can't resist playing some tricks along the way, of course, but they get the pot of gold in place just in time.  Sadly, no one comes to find it and the leprechauns rebury the pot and head home.  The plot is weak - in fact, the strongest part of the text is the About Leprechauns page at the end of the book.  The illustrations of the leprechauns, however, are darling and I can imagine a child staring at them for quite a while, imagining what it would be like to encounter one.  Click here to watch an interview with Eve Bunting (born in Ireland, BTW).

Too Many Leprechauns or How that Pot o' Gold Got to the End of the Rainbow - written by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Dan Andreason
Irish scallawag Finn O'Finnegan returns home from a walkabout to find that his village is a mess.  Nothing is getting done and everyone is exhausted because the leprechauns have invaded the village to cobble fairy shoes and the tap-tap-tapping of their tiny hammers keeps everyone awake.  Finn came home specifically to be spoiled by his mother, so he is highly motivated to fix this situation.  He cleverly tricks the leprechauns into bringing all their gold to the village square and then hides it.  The leprechauns agree to leave Dingle forever if he will return their gold.  They strike a bargain and when Finn restores the gold to the rightful owners, he introduces the leprechauns to the idea of keeping their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Clever story, rich illustrations, worth your time to find it at the library or online.

More St. Paddy's books coming soon!

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