As the saying goes, “Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.” It’s even more true with a book in your hand. (And a pint of Guinness…though maybe after the kids have gone to bed.) Through the magic of books, you and your children can be transported to Ireland and learn how St. Patrick chased out the snakes. You can discover St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and traditions—leprechauns and all.
Growing up, books gave me a glimpse into this Irish holiday. (My ancestors hail from Scotland and Germany so to me it was only a day to wear green and eat corned beef.) I wished to have the luck of the Irish and catch a leprechaun to make a wish.
Low and behold, I married into an Irish family. Now I have two wee Irishmen to discover the magic of St. Patrick Day with.
Allie, on the other hand, is almost fully Irish, as is her husband, giving the girls a strong Irish heritage.
In addition to the fun and festivities surrounding St. Patrick’s Day, we both see the holiday as an opportunity to share a bit of this heritage with our kids through books. In Allie’s St. Patrick’s Day-themed book shelf, you’ll find some books about Ireland, some about St. Patrick himself, a few featuring Irish legends, and plenty about leprechauns and luck. Here’s more about some of our favorites.
On the St. Patrick’s Day Bookshelf
Miroslav Sasek’s This Is Ireland is part of the iconic This Is series, and though the girls have yet to visit the Emerald Isle, the text and illustrations in this child-friendly travel guide bring it to life. It—of course!—includes references to rainbows with leprechauns and crocks of gold.
This book is a St. Patrick’s Day book only by association, but it’s one of this year’s most requested at bedtime. A Fairy Friend by Sue Fliess, illustrated by Claire Keane is a darling how-to verse on how to make friends with a fairy. To the girls, this book is nothing short of magical. As soon as spring has sprung, Willow is planning to make a downy fairy house and flower stew to beckon her own fairy friend.
Since leprechauns are said to be fairy shoe makers, and fairies are said to abound in Ireland, this book made the St. Patrick’s Day shelf. However, most nights it finds itself back on the bedside table for a nightly reading.
This informative and brightly illustrated nonfiction children’s text by Gail Gibbons is about the origins of St. Patrick’s Day, including its symbols and traditions. I realize that I have a Gail Gibbons paperback for almost every holiday. These resources never disappoint me. This text, like the many others we have in the holiday book arsenal, is concise, colorful, and a great reference book to put the “day that we wear green” (as Willow calls it) into context.
The newest favorite in our St. Patrick’s Day collection is another tale by Sue Fliess: How to Trap a Leprechaun. Though we have others on the well-known legend about the good luck that comes from catching a leprechaun (particularly on St. Patrick’s Day eve), this one is gentler with it’s rhyming tone and charming illustrations by Emma Randall.
The girls don’t love the idea of little leprechauns coming into the house at night for mischief making, but this book is more about creative trap engineering than leprechaun trickery. It even inspired some gluey and glittery crafts of our own!
Since she wasn’t keen on the idea of physically trapping a leprechaun, Willow designed a theater out of a cardboard box for a visiting leprechaun to take in her personal favorite, the Nutcracker Ballet. She plans to put some popcorn in for him to enjoy along with the golden bait coins on the night before St. Patrick’s Day.
The boys love the idea of designing traps to catch leprechauns! They’ve enjoyed studying the many featured in our new book, How to Catch a Leprechaun by Adam Wallace, illustrated by Andy Elkerton.
Their traps are not quite as gentle as Willow’s. Built with Legos, they’ve included tripwire, trapdoors, and swinging weapons. They seem more prepared for intruders than magic.
Like Allie and her Gail Gibbons books, we have The Night Before… book by Nastsha Wing for nearly every holiday. The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day was our first. I love to read it in my Irish brogue (which I’m sure would have anyone from Ireland cringing). The book has inspired the boys to decorate the house, create traps with shiny things to attract the leprechauns, and beware of those tricky leprechaun promises.
Though many St. Patrick’s Day books feature tricky leprechauns who are never caught, that’s not the case in Tomie dePaola’s Irish folktale, Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato. When Jamie, the laziest man in Ireland, catches a leprechaun, the wee man swears that he only has two pieces of gold. Instead he offers Jamie a magic seed and says he only has to plant it and wait. Jamie agrees to the disbelief of his wife. The seed grows into the biggest potato he’s ever seen, but how will that help him never work again? You’ll have to read to find out.
Whether you’re Irish or not, we hope reading will help you and your family get into the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day.