Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Here at Once Upon A Story, we’re celebrating by shining to the spotlight on some Irish (or Irish-inspired) authors. I’ve highlighted some of my favorites, and then asked some friends for help in suggesting authors I’d missed. The authors listed here represent both children and young adult literature.
Born, raised, and still residing in Wexford, Ireland, this young adult author has almost 30 titles to his credit. Almost all of these titles have appeared on the New York Times’ Bestseller list since.
Recommended: Artemis Fowl series. The reader follows the teenage criminal genius Artemis Fowl II on his outrageous pursuit for money. From Monaco, to Ireland, to Siberia, to Taiwan, the location is always colorful and exotic. If your reader enjoyed Harry Potter and has not yet read this series, seven titles are available, the most recent being published just last year. An eighth (and supposedly final?) book is in the works.
While born in Connecticut, dePaola’s Irish and Italian heritage plays an important role in his timeless stories. Having written and/or illustrated over 200 books for children, this is likely an author you already know. However, as he is a favorite in our household, I thought this might be a good time to remind you of the joy found in his books.
Recommended: This is difficult since I could honestly recommend anything with dePaola’s name on it, but for St. Patrick’s Day, I’m going to pick Jamie O’ Rourke and the Big Potato and Jamie O’ Rourke and the Pooka. Lovable, lazy Jamie never seems to learn his lesson, but he remains one of my favorite characters, perhaps because of his clueless nature. I love Jamie’s attempts to dodge responsibility, even while the mother in me is smacking my head in frustration.
Patricia Reilly Giff
Born and raised in New York, the setting of many of her young adult novels, Giff is by no means an Ireland native. However, her novels never fail to combine the tension, compassion, confusion, and exultation that constitutes the lives of her middle school/teen readers. Having said that, I want to introduce you to two very important novels:
Recommended: Nory Ryan’s Song and Maggie’s Door tell the story of 12-year-old Nory Ryan and her family as they struggle to survive the Great Hunger of 1845-1852. When it becomes apparent that survival in Ireland is no longer possible, Nory and her family set out for the American Dream. It has been several years since I have read Nory Ryan’s Song, and the sequel, Maggie’s Door, but Giff’s description, imagery, and stark reality have remained with me. While not a light read, the novels are important, not only in the telling of Irish history, but in American history as well.
Born in Belfast, this author was known to his family and friends as “Jack”. After the family dog, Jacksie, was killed,the young Clive Staples Lewis informed his family that he would now answer to no other name but Jacksie. The family eventually convinced him to go with Jack, but the story is an example of his love for animals, a trait apparent in his most famous works.
Recommended: While Lewis wrote many other works, mostly for an adult audience, none ever achieved quite as much long-lasting fame as The Chronicles of Narnia. The series has sold over 100 million copies in 41 languages, and is considered a classic of children’s literature. Like so many others, I read the series in my childhood. Of the seven books, my favorite remains the most famous–The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Now, some thoughts from others–While preparing to write this post, I turned to my Twitter friends for suggestions. Some of the responses are below. While I haven’t personal experience with the most of the authors mentioned, I’m including them because, let’s face it, you just can’t read ’em all and I don’t want to leave out something good!
- Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks and author of The Book Whisperer) suggested Michael Scott. No, not the guy from The Office. Scott writes the bestselling series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. From his website:
“Irish-born Michael Scott began writing over twenty-five years ago, and is one of Ireland ‘s most successful and prolific authors, with one hundred titles to his credit, spanning a variety of genres, including Fantasy, Science Fiction and Folklore. He writes for both adults and young adults and is published in thirty-seven countries, in twenty languages.”
- Amanda (@FaerieTaleMom) suggested Melissa Marr. A native of New York, now living in Washington, D.C. (look! a local!) Marr grew up believing in faeries, ghosts, and all manner of fantastical creatures. She has turned this love of folklore into popular novels for young adults. Wicked Lovely, the first in her popular series by the same name, is currently being adapted into a screenplay.
- And finally, my friend Amy suggested that I not leave off James Joyce and William Yeats. These two poets (and novelist, in the case of Joyce) may be a little heavy for the younger set, they still represent the pride of Ireland. Amy pointed out, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that it’s never too early to start em’ young. She’s right! Don’t underestimate the capability of your children or students. I would never have tossed a book of Yeats at my fifth grade students and expect them to read and comprehend on their own, but we DID use Yeats to examine imagery in poetry, a skill necessary for state tests at that grade level.
Now it’s YOUR turn! Anybody I missed? Any books with Irish settings that have resonated with you? Let’s hear it!