At this time of the year, the young reader is inundated by books about St. Patrick’s Day, and by extension, Ireland. There are plenty of tomes abounding with leprechauns, Blarney Stones and shamrocks. They may be fun, but by themselves they can present a very shallow picture of a culture that is rich in heritage but marred by tragedy.

Here are some reads that might add depth to a young reader’s study of Ireland. And enjoy others that make for fun bedtime stories.

Black Potatoes, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Subtitled “The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850,” this book covers what is arguably the natural disaster that most marked Irish history. It caused the death of a million people and forever changed the dynamics and demographics of the country. Bartoletti relates the daily suffering as well as the overall progression of the calamity, concluding with Queen Victoria’s visit to Ireland in 1849, more ceremony and symbolism than substance.
Winner of the Robert F. Silbert Medal for its contribution to children’s literature.
 
The Irish Potato Famine, by Edward F. Dolan
 
As the Great Famine wreaked havoc in Ireland, the United States gained almost 2 million immigrants. In contrast to Bartoletti’s telling of how a disaster changed Ireland, Dolan’s book tells about the many who escaped to America and their influence on their new country. He details, not only the voyages of those who reached their destinations, but also those who didn’t, those who succumbed to disease and death dreaming of a better life. This book also covers the prejudice facing the new Americans and how they struggled to overcome it.
 
The Young Oxford History of Britain and Ireland, Mike Corbishley, John Gillingham, Rosemary Kelly, Ian Dawson and James Mason
 
The entirety of Irish history, however, is not the Famine. Ireland’s history is full of resilience, as well as struggle. From Henry II’s invasion of Ireland in 1171, through the Irish revival under Robert Bruce, to Home Rule, the pages of this read cover the story of Irish society and culture. The young reader who has heard of the Irish Republican Army, Sien Fein or the Easter Uprising can get a clearer picture of these events in Irish history. 
apotofgold
A Pot o’ Gold
, selected and adapted by Kathleen Krull; illustrated by David McPhail

After so much “heavy” reading, it might be nice to relax with some “fun” reading and this collection provides exactly that. Here are the leprechauns and limericks, the fairies and the fantasy. Brought together in these pages are legends, traditions, history, poems and memories. Oh, and did I mention the recipes that help you create some great Irish snacks to enjoy with what you’re reading?

Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk, by Gerald McDermott

And if that’s not enough fun, here’s a book about the “Wee Folk” which is a perfect bedtime story for the “little folk.” Tim O’Toole hasn’t been having a whole lot of luck or money or even anything to eat. When he stumbles upon some leprechauns, he thinks that things have turned around. But leprechauns are known to be clever and they like to teach lessons to foolish people.

Tim is about to learn three things: appreciate what you’re given, don’t gloat and don’t mess with leprechauns.

Happy St Patrick’s Day!


Scott D. Strawn is manager of the Bluffton Branch of the Beaufort County Library system.