3/14/13

Thinking ahead to St. Patrick's Day--Irish Fantasy for Kids

St. Patrick's Day is, of course, this weekend.  My Irish piper husband has four gigs,  but the boys and I are staying quietly at home, because one of the things that often happens after gigs is that the music just goes to someone's house and goes on playing, and some people, who don't play, get restless sitting around till two in the morning and whine at their mother.

So for those, like me, who are home for the weekend, I thought it might be fun to pull together a book list of Irish Fantasy for Kids (which is to say, books by Irish writers set in Ireland).   I also thought it would be easy.  It wasn't.  There don't seem to be many of them (and wikipedia was no help).  I feel I must be missing something obvious. (And thinking further ahead to St. Andrew's Day, I find to my surprise that I can only think of one set-in-Scotland fantasy book for kids by a Scottish author)....

Here's what I have for Ireland:



Eoin Colfer is the author of the Artemis Fowl series, eight books in all, that are great fun for kids--they're stories of a teenage criminal mastermind, having adventures that blend sci fi and fantasy. He also wrote an excellent, and somewhat underlooked, historical/speculative fiction book for teenagers, Airman (shortlisted for the Cybils in 2008).

Another great series is Skulduggery Pleasant, by Derek Landy, involving the adventures of a skeletal detective/magician and his partner/apprentice, a girl who goes by the name of Valkyrie Cain.

Roddy Doyle is perhaps best known for his grown-up books, but his latest book for younger readers, A Greyhound of a Girl, has just been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, so maybe that will change.  He's also the author of The Giggler Treatment and its sequels,which are utterly wonderful books to read out loud to your seven (or so) year old.

The Hounds of the Morrigan, by Pat O'Shea, was published back in 1985...and I read it then, and only dimly recollect it (maybe I'll try it again this weekend!).   It's an adventure involving two kids confronted by Irish mythology come to life.


My favorite contemporary Irish fantasy book is Bansi O'Hara and the Bloodline Prophecy, by John Dougherty, which is tons of fun, and tells of an Irish-Indian girl confronted by ancient prophecies and Fair Folk being difficult.  The sequel, Bansi O'Hara and the Edges of Halloween, went right on my wish list...and I continue to look forward to it!  These aren't published in the US, sadly.

The Secret of The Ruby Ring, by Yvonne MacGrory, a time travel story in which a young girl finds herself working as a servant 100 years in the past.  I read it ages ago, and don't remember it one or the other myself, but lots of people seem to like it...I must find my copy and try it again for Timeslip Tuesday!  There are a number of sequels to this, which I have never read.

For older kids/teenagers, there's Kate Thompson (born in England, but an Irish resident since the early 1980s), whose series of books, beginning with The New Policeman, blend music and mythology.

A new children's fantasy has just come out from Alex Barcaly, a crime writer-- Curse of Kings: The Trials of Oland Born, which I haven't read yet--seems to be a fairly standard quest in alternate medieval world, so perhaps doesn't meet my criteria of being set in Ireland.

Edited to add:  I had forgotten the book I reviewed on Tuesday--Timecatcher, by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, which is sad, because reading it was what got me thinking about Irish fantasy.  It is very good, and worth making the effort to get a hold off.

And also edited to add:

Here are two Irish myth retellings suggested by CLM (thanks!) (and I am bending my own rule of Irish authorship by including Rosemary Sutcliff, but there it is).

The High Deeds of Finn MacCool, by Rosemary Sutcliff, which was my own introduction to Irish mythology back when I was in sixth grade.

Deirdre, by Madeleine Pollard, sounds like it might be the sort of book marketed as YA if it were published today, instead of 1967.  Here's the Kirkus review.

Further edited to add:

Because of spammers, I had made it harder to comment, so Abigail sent these great additions via email:

"Regarding Michael Scott: no, his Nicholas Flamel series is not set in Ireland, but "The De Danann Tales" trilogy - Windlord / Earthlord / Firelord - is (at least, it's set in a mythical Ireland anyway)

Another series by an Irish author to consider would be Cormac MacRaois' "Giltspur Trilogy" - The Battle Below Giltspur / Dance of the Midnight Fire / Lightning Over Giltspur.

If you're including animal fantasy, Don Conroy's "Wings" trilogy is worth a look: On Silent Wings / Wild Wings, Sky Wing.

Tom McCaughrean is another Irish author who has explored the world of animal fantasy, in his "Run Wild" series about foxes: Run With the Wind / Run to Earth / Run Swift, Run Free / Run to the Ark / Run to the Wild Wood / Run for Cover.

Carlo Gebler's The Bull Raid is a children's novelized retelling of the classic epic of The Tain.

For a children's novel based on the Fionn Cycle, try the recent Old Friends: The Lost Tales of Fionn mac Cumhaill, by Tom O'Neill

Other titles to consider:

The Silver Stag of Bunratty, by Eithne Massey
Colm & the Lazarus Key, by Kieran Mark Crowley (and sequel)
Gyrfalcon, by Grace Wells
Rosie's Quest, by Ann Carroll (and sequels)"

Thank you so much, Abigail!  I had not heard of any of these!

And now back to me:

Even though it's not for kids, I just want to plug in a mention of my favorite Irish fantasy of all--The Grey Horse, by R.A. MacAvoy (my review).   Lovely historical fiction, plus a  paranormal romance back before that was the in thing and way before the girls on the cover wore pretty dresses (although her blouse is shown as fancier than I think she'd wear...).  I note with some rolling of eyes that they did put sparkles on the horse, but there are no sparkles inside the book. Nor is there an epic struggle between paranormal good and evil. 


Other authors of note:

CS Lewis was born in Belfast, but I don't count him as Irish, though he shows up on some lists.   Oscar Wilde was from Dublin, and wrote fantasy...but I'm having a really hard time calling him "a writer of Irish fantasy for children" which probably just goes to show how meaningless labels are.....So go ahead and read The Happy Prince for St. Patrick's Day if you want to.

Michael Scott (the Nicholas Flamel series) is Irish, as is (the brilliant) Sarah Rees Brennan, but their books aren't set in Ireland.  (Although, as noted above, Scott has a another series set in a mythical Ireland).

So anyway, I have little to offer by way of Irish children's fantasy.  Surely there must be more out there?  Not many people from Ireland read my blog (why?), but if you are one of the ten or so Irish people who do, please let me know what's in your local bookstores!

And finally, if nothing here strikes your fancy for a good St. Patrick's Day read, you could try this list of fantasy set in Ireland that I was happy to find--a bit out of date, but full of lots of books I'd never heard of that sound very interesting.

As for me, I have in my tbr pile a copy of The King of Ireland's Son, by Padraic Colum, and now is just as good a time, if not better than most, to read it... and then I will know whether to count it as a children's book or not.

(edited to add: As of Friday evening, no one from Ireland has looked at this post yet.  I wish they would, so they could recommend all the great Irish middle grade fantasy that I don't know about!  Do other bloggers get visitors from Ireland?)

23 comments:

  1. Love your list! I see some of the books I'm planning to read here, but there are several new-to-me titles as well. I found the internet wasn't much help. I'll visit a bookshop in Ireland when I visit and ask around (and let you know).

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    1. I hope you have a lovely trip! I tried really hard to go book shopping when I was in Ireland 13 years ago, and as far as I can remember, I only came home with two children's books--one about a girl named Nora who was miserable for reasons I can't recall (perhaps she was a WW II evacuee?), and one The Secret of the Ruby Ring, which, now that I think of it, is one I need on my list!

      I also read my first Discworld book on that trip, thanks to my friend's son....

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  2. We are completely thin on the ground with Irish books. Betsy (Bird) asked us to pull together one last year on behalf of a friend of hers, and it took FOREVER. Here, however, is a decent one from University of Indiana, and B&N's has a lot of good things on it, like the very cute BROTHERS YIN and Morgan Llywelyn's PIRATE QUEEN (but since Llywelyn is indeed quite, quite Welsh, it hardly counts, and let's not even mention Yin...)

    And no, for some reason, we don't count 'ol Clive, despite being born in Ireland, he was decidedly English.

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    1. That U. of I. one is a good list--thanks! And lo, there on it is the other book I was trying to remember in my reply to Cecelia above--Safe Harbour, by Marita Conlon-McKenna!

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  3. Love your list. You're reminding me I need to read the last Artemis Fowl book and the latest Sarah Rees Brennan book. I loved Sarah's books especially.

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    1. And I am reminded that I need to read the time travel A.F.! So many books...

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  4. Sarah Rees Brennan mentioned above is wonderful but her books so far have been set in the UK.

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    1. I dunno why she won't write one set in Ireland...Ireland seems to me like a good place for fantasy...

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  5. Green by Roberts isn't set in Ireland, but it involves leprechauns. It's not that old. I had the ruby ring one at some point, but it may be gone now.

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    1. Well yes, it's certainly St. Patrick's day appropriate, but the author's not Irish, and like you say, it's not set there....

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  6. How about O.R. Melling and Mollie Hunter? The latter's books are primarily Scotland but I think at least one is set in Ireland. Also, one of the So You Want to Be a Wizard books takes place in Ireland but that isn't as good as a native Irish writer, of course. While it isn't juvenile fantasy, one of my all time favorite books is Sabrina by Madeleine Polland, historical fiction set in Ireland prior to WWI.

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    1. I will add Sabrina to my list!

      I'm being picky, and sticking to by Irish in Ireland, but O.R. Melling was certainly on my mind! And the one Scottish book I mentioned being able to think of was Mollie Hunter...

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  7. Great list! I second the O. R. Melling recommendation, particularly The Chronicles of Faerie: Hunter's Moon

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  8. Ooh, some great recommends to look into! Funny, I feel like there are strong Celtic elements in so many fantasy books, but when I try and think of specifically Irish ones, I have trouble too.

    What about The Scorpio Races? It's not specifically set in Ireland, but it feels really Irish.

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    1. It does, doesn't it! I can imagine it taking place on one of the island....bleak, windswept, lonely....

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  9. I knew there must be some Sutcliff! How about The High Deeds of Finn MacCool? I also like her retelling of Tristan and Iseult. And Madeleine Polland wrote a book about 9th century Deirdre of the Sorrows that is very good: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/madeleine-polland-7/deirdre-2/ Polland was Irish and her love of the country is revealed in every sentence.

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    1. Sutcliff is one of my all time favorites....and I think your right that I might have to mention Finn MacCool, even though she's not Irish!

      And I'll add Deirdre too...it sounds like it might be the sort of book marketed as YA if it were published today.

      Thanks!

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    2. Yes, I think a lot of Polland's books would be sold as YA these days. She is exceptional, however. If your library doesn't have any, I will lend you some the next time I see you. I am sure I own Deirdre although there are others I like better.

      The book I couldn't remember, although I just found it recently in a box, is The Frenzied Prince: http://www.amazon.com/Frenzied-Prince-Stories-Ancient-Ireland/dp/B000NUQPOM

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  10. What a great idea for a roundup. Although fantasy certainly isn't my preferred genre, my son loves it, and so I've been reading the Michael Scott series out loud to him for bedtime reading. I've read, and loved the first Artemis Fowl. I bought a used copy of The Hounds of Morrigan this week, although my Michael Scott experience has made me very wary of it.

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  11. I have two fantasy books that take place in Ireland, at least part of the time: A Wizard Abroad, by Diane Duane, and The Game, by Diana Wynne Jones. (Apologies if this comment shows up twice. I am reposting because I think Blogger Ate My Comment). --Farida

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    1. Those would definitly be up there on my list of books set in Ireland; I'm wondering if I made my peramiters to tight by only including Irish authors....

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  12. What a fun idea for St. Patrick's Day! I was going to recommend The Ghost of Grania O'Malley, but apparently the author is English. Oh well, still a good story about a girl in Ireland, and the ghost of an awesome Irish pirate.

    I've completely forgotten The Ruby Ring, except that I liked it...I think a reread is in order. And I'm intrigued by The Grey Horse!

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    1. Do try the Grey Horse! I hope you like it!

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