Sunday, March 13, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to tell you that I have found the perfect book or books to read for St. Patrick's Day? Alas, that will not be the case today. There is not much to get excited about in terms of books for good St. Paddy. There are few stories that directly name the day and none of those that I have seen are good to read aloud.

So, we go to books of leprechauns and Irish lore. Both Tomie DePaola and Gerald McDermott have retold Irish folk lore. Depaola has two tales of Jamie O'Rourke who is said to be the laziest man in all of Ireland. These stories are good for a laugh but are long for the youngest listeners. McDermott's books can also be wordy but it is worth taking a look at Tim O'Toole and the Wee Folk or Daniel O'Rourke. If you like telling stories rather than reading, any of these would be a good choice to fit to your own style.

Clever Tom and the Leprechauns by Linda Shute is better suited to reading to younger groups (kindergarten or first grade) who are excited about leprechauns. Our first grades are visited by leprechauns at this time of the year, so I leave this book for them to share. After all, they are the ones who introduced it to me.

For older students, there is the option of looking at Irish history. While there are many lengthy informational books about Ireland and its history, the best one I can think of for reading aloud in one sitting is The Long March: The Choctaw's Gift to Irish Famine Relief by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick. This is an illustrated telling of a little known story of American aid to victims of the Irish the Potato Famine. The Choctaw Indians themselves suffered much loss and hardship in 1847, yet the group empathized with the the Irish enough to collect $170 (equivalent to about $5000 today) to send across the seas to help. It is a moving tale of giving even when times are hard.

What will I be doing with classes this St. Patrick's Day? I will pick and choose between facts about Ireland and Irish tales. A to Z Ireland by Justine and Ron Fontes offers colorful pictures and 26 interesting snippets about the Emerald Isle which is a good, quick introduction.
Then we will talk about snakes, which were supposedly driven from Ireland by St. Patrick. (Of course, most people agree that there never were snakes on the island and that the snake is symbolic of evil, but we will not let that stop me from spreading the old legend to the youngest classes.) Older students will learn about the Blarney Stone and we will play a game we call "Blarney" which is loosely based on that great old game show, "To Tell the Truth". Since our school teaches students to prepare for all kinds of careers, I figure knowing how to tell half truths convincingly may someday prove valuable for someone.

I am sad to report that I won't be wearing my giant shamrock earrings this year. I will be a conference on March 17 and my substitute will get the joy of working with the super excited children. I hope she remembers to wear green.

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