Episode 137: Celebrating Irish-American Heritage and Women’s History Month

In this episode we look at some books celebrating Irish Heritage and many books with great women heroines. We share some silly books, some serious books, and several books with clever critical-thinking heroes who find creative ways to solve problems.

Books Discussed in this Episode:

Transcript with Links:

Welcome to “Books That Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that help us with everyday discipleship, every day, sparking important conversations with our children. Today, since we’re coming up on St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it would be fun to look at a few more books celebrating Irish American Heritage and Women’s History Month. One of the things with traditional Irish stories, many of them, probably most of them, have female heroines, and I found that very interesting. Now, some of the Irish books are not going to be appropriate for your youngest children because a lot of them deal with fierce battles and monsters and things like that. So I’m going to start with some that would be appropriate for all our kids, and then move into some of the ones that maybe your older children would enjoy. Most of these that are traditional stories, of course, will deal with leprechauns, faeries, some witches. And so you just need to be aware it’s part of the Irish culture to have these folktales with these different mythological creatures.

I want to share the first one with you, which is Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman and illustrated by Kelly Murphy, and this is a wonderful story of a clever girl, and she is the heroine of the story, and she uses her critical thinking, her intelligence to solve a problem for her village, and this is during the famine and when people were just suffering so much in Ireland because of the famine. The story premise is that the reason they were suffering was because the leprechauns and faeries had stolen all of the luck, and so it does deal with the concept of luck, of course, just like the title, but her cleverness saves the village. And so I love this story because of the critical thinking, because of the cleverness, because of this wonderful little girl who is just so smart.

And then one of my other very favorite stories that I found and one of my favorite authors is Patricia Polacco, and this is one of her stories. It is based on her family’s heritage, it is called Fiona’s Lace. It’s set in the time period of the Chicago Fire when many immigrants were coming into the United States and into Chicago, and her Irish ancestors were some of those. And it’s just a wonderful story, I love her books. Any of her books are just amazing and share her heritage from all of her family and her education experiences and her teachers. She just writes really lovely stories, and of course, the artwork is also hers. She’s a wonderful artist and illustrator. So anyway, this is a beautiful story, Fiona’s Lace, of a young girl from Ireland who uses her brain again to save the day and to help her family get reunited after the fire. So it’s just a wonderful story.

Then Maisie McGillicuddy’s Sheep Got Muddy by Kelly Grettler and illustrated by Darya Beklemesheva, I’m sorry if I messed up her name. It’s just a cute story about this girl who loses her sheep and she plays a flute and tries to find her lost sheep. I just love this story, it’s really cute and shows where she talks to the other animals. She goes to other places, the sheep talks to the other animals and finds what he needs. Anyway, they’re reunited and it’s just a really cute story. It’s set in Ireland, and so you see in the pictures, you really get a picture of what Ireland’s countryside looks like, and it’s really nice.

Now, I know that this month we’re celebrating Irish American heritage, and so the second book, the one by Patricia Polacco, is definitely appropriate for Irish American heritage because this is a family that immigrated to the U.S. During that time when most people from Ireland were trying to flee because of the poverty and famine, but this one is set in Ireland and so was the first one I mentioned. So some of these are more just Irish stories and some of them are Irish American.

And another one I really like is Flying Feet: A Story of Irish Dance. This one is set in Ireland, but it is so cool to just see the Irish dance and the competition. It is written by Anna Marlis Burgard and illustrated by Leighanne Dees. It’s just a fun story, it’s got great pictures and just shows the competition between two young men who are trying to become the best dancer in their village, but it just, it has so much culture in it, and I just love that, and it talks about Irish dance.

With the Catholic heritage in Irish culture, we have a lot of saints, so some of the saints that we read about are really well-known in Ireland, originated in Ireland, and Brigid is one of them. And there’s several stories about Brigid, but one I wanted to share is called Brigid’s Cloak by Bryce Milligan and illustrated by Helen Cann. It’s a beautiful story, it’s really a Christmas story because Bridget is transported to the birth of Jesus, to the stable where Jesus was born, and she helps with taking care of the baby Jesus and Mary, and it’s just a really lovely story, and she’s such a neat little girl who just works hard and is very kind, just so many wonderful character traits you can see in her life. Of course, she has become a saint in the Catholic Church in Ireland, so of course she has some good qualities, but these stories are really beautiful. And of course there’s miracles in all of these saint stories, but there’s several of them about her and she’s very interesting. So that would be one if you like to share the stories of the saints and talk about those with your kids. They’re a lot of fun.

Now, some of the silly stories that I think you will enjoy, St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning by Eve Bunting and Illustrated by Jan Brett. Jan Brett is the one who wrote about the mitten and several other stories, her illustrations are so nice. But this is a story about a little boy who wants to be in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, but he’s too young. It’s just a really nice story, has a lot of good lessons in it to share with our kids. So it’s just a great little storybook.

Then I love this one, The Leprechaun in the Basement by Kathy Tucker and illustrated by John Sandford. There’s a whole lot of leprechaun stories. I didn’t go into a lot of them, but I really love this one. So this leprechaun has come to America with a family and he is living in their basement and he has his pot of gold and this little boy is very poor. His family’s Irish and they’re just very poor and he needs new baseball shoes and he loves to play baseball. His shoes are just falling apart and his dad has lost his job, they’re just trying to make ends meet and trying to survive. Well, then he finds out there’s this leprechaun in the basement who has this whole pot of gold and he asks the leprechaun for some of his gold, and the leprechaun knows that’s coming because that’s what all the big people do is they always ask for their gold. So then the little boy gets mad cause the leprechaun says no, he says “You’re stingy” or something like that, and the leprechaun goes, “Well, all humans are greedy and want all the gold.” So it has a really great message and a really great ending to it, and I really love this story. There is a lot you can talk about with your children and learning to make do and to be creative and to do your best to handle a situation even if it’s difficult, rather than trying to get money from someone else to make things work out. So I love the message this story has and the characters are cute, they’re really cleverly drawn as well as the personalities come out in this little picture book.

And then another fun one for the young children is called Green Shamrocks by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Joelle Dreidemy. In this one, it’s a cute story about these animals preparing for the St. Patrick’s Day parade. This one’s for very young children, but it’s really cute. The goat believes that the wind has given him a gift and it turns out it’s just blown in the rabbit’s belonging into his house. And so he’s like, well, it’s a gift that was given to me. So there’s a little bit of weirdness there I guess, in the storyline, but it’s a cute story because they share, and they get to go to the parade and enjoy the parade, but it’s a little strange at that part.

Now there’s a couple stories that are for your older children. They have a lot of mythology in them, a lot of witches and different dragons and sea monsters and those kinds of things. And so one is O’Sullivan Stew, the heroine of the story is a young girl and she tells stories and winds up rescuing her village from the witch because the witch gets mad, it’s a long story. But anyway, it has a lot in it, but it’s very cleverly done, has a lot of stories in it, and it shows the power of telling stories. So I love that, but it also shows that she’s clever.

Then another one is Brave Margaret: An Irish Adventure. It’s by Robert D. San Souci and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. I tell you, some names of authors and illustrators are so hard to pronounce, and I always feel concerned that I’m saying them wrong, but they will be in the show notes written correctly and linked to their book so you can find them. I just apologize in advance for in the past when I’ve mispronounced names, but I try my best. If I can hear how the name is pronounced, I will try to do it correctly. But anyway, this is called Brave Margaret and she’s the heroine of the story. Once again, she’s dealing with a witch or I don’t think they call her a witch. I can’t remember what they called her, but it wasn’t exactly a witch but magic …person. Anyway, there’s a hero in the story as well–her true love. It’s a love story, but this one would appeal to your middle grade, upper elementary, middle school grade students, they would probably enjoy this story. It does have dragons and magic, and all these kinds of things, and there’s sword fights and battles. But she is the hero of the story, and it’s just really cool. I just love stories that do have a strong female lead to encourage our young girls to take a stand, to be brave, not to be the traditional princess waiting for Prince Charming to come rescue them. And so it’s kind of wonderful to kind of empower our young women, and so I do love that, especially this month when that’s one of the focuses we have in the month of March.

So those are a few books, and if you look back, I’ll have a link to my podcast I did a long time ago about Irish American literature that gives some of the more folk tales, the old traditional tales of Ireland and some books about Ireland, and I looked and most of those are still available. And so I will link that in the show notes as well. There are a lot of fun stories to read this month, whether you’re celebrating Irish American heritage or women and empowering women to be all that God has created them to be, there’s a lot of great stories out there.

Thank you for joining us for “Books That Spark,” where we encourage each other to live out everyday discipleship, helping to equip our children to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you enjoyed this episode, please like and share on social media so people know we are here, and please feel free to leave a comment on the show notes. You can ask a question, leave a comment, or give another book recommendation if you know of one that you would like to share. We appreciate hearing from you, we love to hear from you, and we respond to every comment and question. If you would like to connect with me, you can join my mailing list. It’s also the website where you can comment on the show notes and you can find me on TerrieHellardBrown.com. When you sign up for my mailing list, I wanted to let you know you also have access to several free items, including a book list of over 100 books that I vetted, that which either are historically Christian based or do not contradict a Christian worldview that you can use to start your child’s library, and there’s a lot of great books on there that that just make wonderful baby gifts, cause I include a list of board books as well. You also have emails from me for a few weeks. It is to encourage you in your walk with God, it is geared toward you and being a disciple of Christ. In addition, you get my monthly newsletter. Each month I have a book club recommendations, and in the book club I choose books for our children as well as for us, usually based on a similar theme for each book. It also gives you my calendar of where I’ll be speaking or sharing, so you have that information. Joining my mailing list gives you access to many things. And in addition to that, we also have a Facebook group that you’re welcome to join, and it’s just a discussion group for this podcast and also to encourage parents and caregivers in discipling their kids, and that’s the focus of the group. So if you’re interested in joining that, please message me and let me know and we will add you to that group. You can also find me on all social media, and you’re always welcome to comment or ask questions. We just want to encourage you in your walk with God and in your desire to disciple the children in your life. We truly appreciate you and we pray you feel empowered as a parent or caregiver to walk by faith and to embrace everyday discipleship every day with the children in your life.

Other Episodes about Irish Heritage:

Episode 136: Biographies and the Power of Testimony
Episode 38: St. Patrick and What He Teaches Us All

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *