My favorite books for St. Patrick’s Day.

Somehow, tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day. While it’s not a huge holiday at our house, St. Patrick was a cool guy, so we give him a little attention. (The girls are about 0% Irish on my side, but their Dad’s family has some Irish heritage. We’re not entirely poseurs.)

books for st patrick's day

Go ahead and pick your jaws up off the floor. It’s hard for anyone to imagine that I, of all people, would recommend a Tomie dePaola book, right? Haha.

If you want St. Patrick’s Day to be about more than leprechauns and green food coloring, then start with Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland. (IndieBound/Amazon) Like most of dePaola’s religious work, it’s a narrative tale of the life of the Saint, combined with symbolism in the illustrations and a bit of explanation about how we remember the Saint today.

In Patrick’s case, there’s a lot of mythology whose origins are lost to time, so there’s no “real” story that doesn’t contain at least a bit of supposition. I mean, there probably weren’t ever snakes in Ireland in the first place. When reading this, or any book about St. Patrick with your children, it might be important to stress that when people become heroes, sometimes other people ascribe stories to them that aren’t necessarily truthful.

st patricks day children's books

St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning was my favorite book for the holiday when I was a classroom teacher. (IndieBound/Amazon) Because it doesn’t contain the actual story of St. Patrick, and it doesn’t have much discussion of the religious commemorations for the day, it’s appropriate for use in a secular setting.

Equally, it focuses on the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, rather than on the commercialized American approximation. The story centers around Jaime, who is excited to join his town’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Unfortunately, everyone in the family thinks he’s too small to do it, because the parade ends by climbing a tall hill. Jaime, undaunted, proves them all wrong on “St. Patrick’s Day in the morning,” long before the rest of the house is awake.

The illustrations (by Jan Brett, no less) are rendered only in yellow, green, orange, and shades of grey, so the book has a vintage feel. It’s also a sweet story for children growing into their own independence, but not quite ready for the angst that appears in so many modern books written along those lines.

The title of the book comes from the name of an old Irish jig. Here’s one version I found:

(There are other versions on the banjo and reed flute, as well, if you’re into this sort of thing.)

We’ll read these two books, make some shamrocks to talk about the Trinity, and call it good. 🙂

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