Shades of St. Patrick

Already the near-spring is bringing us shades of St. Patrick and the greening of fields and forests. With a hey and a ho, (Can you tell I’ve joined a group of madrigal singers?) I’m ready to open crisp, new books and take fresh peeks at old ones.

Congratulations to Bob Brooks for his new ebook, Tales from the Glades of Ballymore, a sweet fantasy that features an assortment of animals who create their own nurturing community. The gentle novel, set in 1891 in the Irish countryside, follows four seasons of their lives near a pond. From the kite-flying contest in March to the sustained project of building a boat to the hilarious tunnel-digging project for Mrs. Porcupine’s garden, the residents turn to each other for help — or at least for a humorous diversion.

Led by wise old Bartholomew Owl, the animals display a range of personalities and talents, ranging from weather forecasting to delivering messages. In between mishaps and a mystery involving a letter from the past, they learn the value of empathy and of working together for the common good. (You can join them by clicking on the title above to buy a copy for your Kindle or laptop.)

Tales from Old Ireland, one of Barefoot’s lovely compilations, offers a stirring selection of seven folktales for ages 8 to 12. Belfast-born storyteller Malachy Doyle employs a lilting, sprightly style that does justice to these strange and wondrous tales. The collection, available with CDs, includes the sad “Children of Lir,” the colorful Irish version of Cinderella (“Fair, Brown, and Trembling”) and the wise “Lusmore and the Fairies,” which illustrates the value of kindness and respect . The final story, featuring the legendary hero Finn Mac Cool, even includes the appearance of St. Patrick himself. Thanks to the Irish monks of the seventh and eighth centuries, we can still savor such wild, old Celtic tales.

For younger readers (ages 6 to 8), pick up Cynthia DeFelice’s
One Potato, Two P
otato. DeFelice, an acclaimed writer and storyteller, has taken a likable Chinese folktale and transported it to Ireland. This charming tale about a poor couple finding a magic wishing pot but not letting it rule (or ruin) their lives is a timely and witty way to teach young ones the importance of simplicity and gratitude. One Potato, Two Potato is a treat to read aloud to young children and will generate interesting discussions of values.

And here’s Celtic Thunder in concert. Enjoy!

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