A Tuesday Ten: The Wearing of the Green

With St. Patrick’s Day yesterday, I figured it was an appropriate topic to look at speculative fiction that takes place in Ireland.  Surprisingly, for all that the Emerald Isle is deemed a place of magic and legend and great stories, I had trouble coming up with a lot of children’s fiction set there.

1.

A Wizard Abroad by Diane Duane (HMH Books, c1993)

This is the fourth book in the Young Wizards series.  Nita is being sent away to spend her vacation with relatives in Ireland–away from wizardry and her partner in magic, Kit.  Yet it is not so easy to part Nita from either of these.  Particularly when she’s being sent to an ancient land full of magic . . . and dark and dangerous events are afoot.  Lots of old Irish legends brought to the fore in this adventure.  Back when I was first reading these it took me a while to track down this particular volume, but it was worth it.  My favorite bit is the bard cat, Tualha, a wonderfully bright spot in the story, and an unforgettable part of the book’s  climax.

2.

Gwinna by Barbara Helen Berger (Philomel, 1990)

I have to admit that it’s possible this book isn’t set in Ireland . . . but my mind says it is.  It’s a lovely story with absolutely stunning illustrations about a girl sent to childless parents by the Mother of Owls.  The little girl has wings on her back that her parents hide and bind up in fear of their daughter being  seen as different.  This suppression of a part of herself hurts Gwinna and she finally leaves her family behind, setting off on a quest for her own personal growth.

3.

The Wizard Children of Finn by Mary Tannen (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1981)

A time-travel fantasy adventure tangling ancient myth and modern characters.  Fiona and Bran befriend a strange, but charming young man, only to be swept back  with him to Ireland and back in time over 2000 years.  The two children become part of Finn’s adventures in his own time . . . but can they find their way back home?  A second book continues the story with another trip back in time for Fiona and Bran in The Lost Legend of Finn.

4.

The Wishing of Biddy Malone by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Christopher Denise (Puffin, c2004)

One of several picture book stories on this list.  A lyrical story about a young girl who happens on a fairy village and meets a fairy man there who dances with her.  He asks her to tell him her three deepest wishes, and she does.  When those wishes don’t immediately come true, Biddy sets out to achieve them herself–and learns the real value in wishes.  This is a favorite story of mine, great for reading aloud if you can put on a wee bit of an Irish brogue.

5.

The Ring of Truth by Teresa Bateman (Holiday House, 1997)

Another picture book, this one by an author who has done a number of Irish stories.  This is the story of a man, Patrick O’Kelley, who loves to tell wild stories.  In fact, he’s so good at it, he gets himself into trouble with the king of the leprechauns, who curses the man by giving him a ring that will only allow him to tell the truth.  Patrick figures he’ll never win a blarney contest again, but soon learns that even a curse can sometimes turn into a blessing!

6.

Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle (Harry N. Abrams, c2011)

Roddy Doyle is another Irish author with several titles to his name.  This particular book came out two years ago and is an oddly poignant story about a girl whose grandmother is dying.  The ghost of her Granny’s own mother comes to help her daughter say goodbye, with assistance from Mary O’Hara and her mother, Scarlett.  Four generations of women on one last trip together facing life, love and the beyond.

7.

The Hounds of The Morrigan by Pat O’Shea (Holiday House, 1986)

Twelve year old Pidge and five-year-old Brigit are in a race against a deity to discover how to stop a dangerous monster they accidently released from an old book.  They will win many allies on their adventure, but the 3-aspect goddess, the Morrigan, has set her hounds to hunting the children . . . and time is running out.  A classic tale full of Irish myth and magical adventure with a a story of good vs. evil at it’s heart.

8.

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy (HarperCollins, 2007)

An urban fantasy story that features a protagonist who is a walking talking skeleton.  An ace detective, snappy dresser, razor-tongued wit,  crackerjack sorcerer, fire-throwing, walking, talking, skeleton.  He’s taken adventurous 12-year-old Stephanie under his bony arm to guide her through the ins and outs of the oft times dangerous magical realm as they try to stop the ultimate evil from returning in force.  Great, witty fun with some tremendous characters. (and set in Ireland, which is why it makes this list).

9.

Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman, illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Charlesbridge, 2007)

Lately the Leprechauns have been hording all the luck of the land, and keeping it from the big folks above that could use a pinch or two of it.  Clever Fiona has a plan to get that luck back, but she’ll have to challenge the king of the Leprechauns to do it!  This is the second Bateman picture book on my list, and like the last it involves a human outwitting the fairy folk, but I love reading this one aloud to kids!

10.

Fergus and the Night Demon by Jim Murphy, illustrated by John Mander (Clarion, c2006)

We’ll finish up with this delightful picture book ghost-story about a young boy who has been lazy all his life . . . and now is in danger of getting caught by the dreaded night-demon  for his crimes.  Fergus, like most Irish heroes and heroines in such a story, finds a clever way to outwit the demon . . . but also learns his lesson about doing his due share of the chores!

So there’s my ten!  Any Irish titles to add? Comments welcome!

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on March 18, 2014, in General Posts, Lists and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. What about Kate Thompson’s books? http://www.katethompson.info/ They were the first I thought of, even before Wizard’s Abroad (and I’m a great Young Wizards fan!).

  2. A Wizard Abroad. I think I had The Borrowers Abroad in my head. Wait. Is THAT even a book? Never mind. I’m just saying I’m aware of my typo!

  3. One I love, that sadly is not available new over here, is Bansi O’Hara and the Bloodline Prophesy, by John Dougherty. It’s available fairly cheaply on Amazon though….and it’s really good!

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