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Ireland’s written heritage is almost as legendary as its verdant hills and rich mythology. The giants of early 20th century Irish authorship are household names—Yeats, Joyce, Wilde—but the Emerald Isle has an equally strong (though lesser known) tradition of great children’s literature, too. With St. Patrick’s Day approaching, now is a great time to take advantage of the literary gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow with these ten Irish authors.
Roddy Doyle Already an established novelist (he is a 1993 Booker Prize winner for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha) Doyle’s foray into children’s literature promises to be as successful. The Dubliner’s Rover stories (The Giggler Treatment, Rover Saves Christmas and The Meanwhile Adventures) chronicle the exploits of a hapless adventure-seeking dog, and his latest book, Her Mother’s Face, is a poignant look at love and loss from a child’s perspective. Doyle’s humor—from the crude to the charming to the whimsical—make him a great read for adults and children alike. Best for grades 3-5.
Patricia Lynch Patricia Lynch was a prolific writer—with 48 novels and hundreds of short stories. Her western Irish background colors the events and landscapes in many of her stories; while her stories are relatively uncomplicated for her young audience, they are replete with delightful imagination. Her best-known book is The Turf-Cutter’s Donkey, celebrated for its romanticized portrayal of rustic Ireland. Her Brogreen series is also a staple of mid-century children’s fantasy, and though some of her books are out of print they are well worth tracking down. Best for grades 3-5.
C.S. Lewis Belfast-born Clive Staples Lewis rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest literary luminaries of his day at Oxford, including J.R.R. Tolkien, and it’s interesting to speculate how the two might have influenced the separate fantasy worlds for which they’ve each become famous. Lewis’ conversion to Christianity informs much of his writing and is a motif throughout his most famous body of work, The Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis’ allegory, however, is never heavy-handed; he is very accessible to children and adults alike, making him a beloved cornerstone of children’s literature. Don’t miss The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair. Best for grades 4-6.
Eoin Colfer With tales that compare favorably to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, Wexford native Eoin Colfer has a lot going for him. The Irish author and comedian is best known for his Artemis Fowl series, which he has jokingly summed up as “Die Hard with fairies”. The adventures and exploits of (anti)hero Artemis Fowl, adolescent criminal genius, are noted for their dark humor and are bestsellers on both sides of the Atlantic. The six-book series has a movie deal in the works. Artemis Fowl, The Arctic Incident, and The Eternity Code round out the first three books in the sequence. Best for grades 4-6.
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