I have 3 great children’s books that will give you a well-rounded introduction and background of Ireland. This is Ireland, by Miroslav Sasek was written in 1964 like a travel guidebook for kids. With fantastic (now vintage) illustrations, it describes the important places across the entire country including details and history about Dublin, the monastery of Clonmacnoise, and several stone castles.
The book takes us from the Giant’s Causeway in the north, to the many lakes in County Mayo to the west, and all along the diverse coasts and harbors including the Cliffs of Moher and Connemara. Sasek includes interesting facts woven into the book about St. Patrick, the cathedral that bears his name in Dublin, the Book of Kells, famous people, and national symbols such as the leprechaun, shamrock, and the shillelagh. I wish I would have known about this book before we took our daughter to Ireland! This would be perfect to read before you take a trip, or before studying Ireland, recommended for kids in kindergarten through 5th grade.
The second book takes a more traditional non-fiction approach, this time with a myriad of photographs and snippets of information; it’s like a miniature encyclopedia of all things Irish. The book A to Z Ireland by Justine and Ron Fontes dedicates each letter of the alphabet to a different concept from Ireland. From animals, to a map, to religion to yearly festivals- A to Z Ireland includes many useful facts in simple language. Many of the photographs include children, and there is a section at the end with a Gaelic alphabet and some words.
The final book is in a completely different genre. A Symphony for the Sheep, by Cynthia Millen, is a fictional poem that showcases sheep farmers and weavers in rural Ireland. The illustrations are hand-colored woodcuts, in muted tones that capture the process of making wool sweaters from shearing the sheep, through spinning the wool, weaving it, and finally knitting it. While the vocabulary is advanced, even the youngest children will appreciate the musical, poetic story, whose rhymes draw the reader into the quaint, rural, Old World landscapes. I would recommend this book for children in kindergarten through 3rd grade.
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