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.
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.
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.
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:
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)
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.
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.
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:
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?)