Maybe it’s a deep connection to my Irish ancestors or a simple love of Ireland. Whatever the case may be, I love to read books about the land of the leprechauns and share them with my children. In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, here are some of our favorite books that inspire travel to Ireland.
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Favorite Ireland Books to Read Before a Trip
Best Irish Children’s Books to Read Before Visiting Ireland with Kids
1. Finn McCool and the Great Fish (Myths, Legends, Fairy and Folk Tales) by Eve Bunting
Finn McCool is the largest giant in all of Ireland. He’s a fierce warrior, even beating the giant Culcullan and saving Ireland from the Scots. Helpful and kind, he helps the farmers and everyone in the village admires him. But for all his strength, courage, and goodness, there’s one thing that Finn lacks. He’s just not smart. And he knows it. When a wise man living in a nearby village tells Finn about a magical red salmon with the wisdom of the world, Finn sets out to catch the fish. And he learns a thing or two about himself in the process.
2. Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato by Tomie de Paola
Jamie is accustomed to his wife doing all the household and garden chores, so when she injures her back, he figures he’s sure to starve to death. But as luck would have it, he chances upon a leprechaun. The elfin man offers Jamie the biggest “pratie” in the world in exchange for letting him go. A fun read aloud for little ones or early readers.
3. King Puck by Michael Garland
The happy Irish farmer Seamus and his pet goat, Finny, seek the chance of a lifetime at the King Puck Festival. And as Seamus and Finny’s adventure unfolds, you’ll adore finding the fairies hidden in each of the radiant illustrations. Set against the backdrop of Ireland’s oldest and most unusual fair, King Puck is a jig-reeling, kid-appealing tale of friendship, fun, and fairy magic!
4. O’Sullivan Stew by Hudson Talbott
Someone has stolen the witch of Crookhaven’s horse, and there will be no peace in the village until it is returned. So bold, brassy Kate O’Sullivan takes matters into her own hands. Instead of saving the day, she manages to land herself–and her family–in trouble with the king. So Kate sets out to save their hides the only way she knows how–with a good story. Filled with imagination, wit, and a healthy helping of good old-fashioned Irish blarney, this is a hilarious tale that will keep readers coming back for more.
5. A Fine St. Patrick’s Day by Susan Wojciechowski
WELCOME TO THE rival towns of Tralee and Tralah, where the annual St. Patrick’s Day decorating contest is under way. Every year, Tralah defeats Tralee. This year, though, little Fiona Riley has a wonderful idea that will help Tralee win the contest for sure. But neither town has counted on a stranger arriving—a funny little man with pointed ears and boots trimmed with bells—who will turn the contest upside down!
Ireland Books for Grade School Readers
6. Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman
The greedy Leprechaun King has locked away all the luck in Ireland and the whole country has fallen in to despair. Through clever charades, Fiona outwits the Leprechaun King and restores luck to the land. Beautiful illustrations will attract readers of all ages to this original folktale.
7. The King with Horse’s Ears and Other Irish Folktales by Batt Burns
Storytelling is one of Ireland’s oldest and grandest traditions, and these vivid tales of far-off days will introduce young readers to the country’s irresistible folklore. Here are brave warriors with superhuman skills, monster dogs with blazing eyes, fairy folk and leprechauns, and the magical land of Tir na nÓg.
8. Tales from Old Ireland by Malachy Doyle
This enchanting collection of favorite Irish folk tales deserves to be read aloud at every hearth. The larger-than-life characters, dramatic landscapes, and magical happenings of all the tales, including the famous legend of the bewitched Children of Lir, will transport readers to another world for many happy hours.
9. Brigid’s Cloak: An Ancient Irish Story by Bryce Milligan
Brigid’s Cloak retells an ancient tale about one of Ireland’s most beloved saints. On the day she is born Brigid receives a brilliant blue cloak from a mysterious Druid. Years later, the young girl still wears the now tattered but beloved cloak while she tends her sheep. Is it her imagination that suddenly takes her to an unfamiliar land? Or is it something far greater that leads Brigid to a crowded inn in a town called Bethlehem?
10. Leprechauns and Irish Folklore: Magic Tree House Fact Tracker # 21 by Mary Pope Osborne
When Jack and Annie got back from their adventure in Magic Tree House #43: Leprechaun in Late Winter, they had lots of questions. What are leprechauns? How do we know many of the old Irish stories? How do fairies spend their time? Who speaks the Irish language? Find out the answers to these questions and more as Jack and Annie track the facts.
Ireland Books for Teens and Tweens
11. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius-and, above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren’t the fairies of bedtime stories; these fairies are armed and dangerous. Artemis thinks he has them right where he wants them but then they stop playing by the rules.
12. Cave of Secrets by Morgan Llywelyn
Pirates and crooked rulers make seventeenth-century Ireland a dangerous place. When Tom feels rejected by his father, he finds a secret second family among the group of smugglers who trade in and around Roaringwater Bay. Though Tom doesn’t know it, his family in the Big House is under huge pressure. In this day, cut-throat interests control everybody and everything, friend turns into foe, and loyalty counts for nothing. From his new family, Tom learns all about boats and smuggling and secret treasure, but Tom discovers the best-kept secret of all.
13. The Pirate Princess: Return to the Emerald Isle by Matthew Morris
Meg is given a very special gift on her eleventh birthday, a gift as beautiful and mysterious as it is old. It has been in her family’s possession for as long as they have been sailing the ocean. But stranger things await her as she is suddenly thrust on a journey to Ireland, the land of her Ancestors.
Join her on a modern day high seas adventure to the Emerald Isle and discover a world of spirits, pirates, hidden treasure and a legendary sea queen named Grace O’Malley, also known as Granuaile. The key to all she wants to know could be in the family heirloom she received, but can she figure it out before the man called The Digger takes everything away from her?
14. The New Policeman (New Policeman Trilogy) by Kate Thompson
There never seems to be enough time in Kinvara, or anywhere else in Ireland for that matter. When J.J.’s mother says time is what she really wants for her birthday, J.J. decides to find her some. He’s set himself up for an impossible task . . . until a neighbor reveals a secret. There’s a place where time stands still—at least, it’s supposed to. J.J. can make the journey there, but he’ll have to vanish from his own life to do so. Can J.J. find the leak between the two worlds? Will a shocking rumor about his family’s past come back to haunt him? And what does it all have to do with the village’s new policeman?
Books Set in Ireland
15. Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy
It began with Benny Hogan and Eve Malone, growing up, inseparable, in the village of Knockglen. Benny—the only child, yearning to break free from her adoring parents…Eve—the orphaned offspring of a convent handyman and a rebellious blueblood, abandoned by her mother’s wealthy family to be raised by nuns. Eve and Benny—they knew the sins and secrets behind every villager’s lace curtains…except their own. If you’ve seen the movie, the book is better. One of my all time favorites.
16. Ireland by Frank Delaney
In the winter of 1951, a storyteller, the last practitioner of an honored, centuries-old tradition, arrives at the home of a nine-year-old boy in the Irish countryside. For three wonderful evenings, the old gentleman enthralls the local audience with narratives of foolish kings, fabled saints, and Ireland’s enduring accomplishments before moving on. These nights change a young boy forever, setting him on a years-long pursuit of the elusive, itinerant storyteller and the glorious tales that are no less than the saga of his tenacious and extraordinary isle. Magical storytelling by Delaney.
17. In the Woods by Tania French
As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours. Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. When a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.
18. The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley
To escape a recent heartbreak in New York, Grania Ryan returns to her family home on the rugged, wind-swept coast of Ireland. Here, on the cliff edge in the middle of a storm, she meets a young girl, Aurora Lisle, who will profoundly change her life.
19. The Princes of Ireland by Edward Rutherfurd
The saga begins in pre-Christian Ireland with a clever refashioning of the legend of Cuchulainn, and culminates in the dramatic founding of the Free Irish State in 1922. Through the interlocking stories of a wonderfully imagined cast of characters — monks and noblemen, soldiers and rebels, craftswomen and writers — Rutherfurd vividly conveys the personal passions and shared dreams that shaped the character of the country. He takes readers inside all the major events in Irish history: the reign of the fierce and mighty kings of Tara; the mission of Saint Patrick; the Viking invasion and the founding of Dublin; the trickery of Henry II, which gave England its foothold on the island in 1167; the plantations of the Tudors and the savagery of Cromwell; the flight of the “Wild Geese”; the failed rebellion of 1798; the Great Famine and the Easter Rebellion. With Rutherfurd’s well-crafted storytelling, readers witness the rise of the Fenians in the late nineteenth century, the splendours of the Irish cultural renaissance, and the bloody battles for Irish independence, as though experiencing their momentous impact firsthand.
Hopefully you will find something on this list that carries you away to the Emerald Isle and inspires you to someday make the journey yourself. If you’re looking for Ireland inspiration, don’t miss The Best Things to do in Killarney, Dublin Day Trips, and 7 Reasons to Take Your Kids to Ireland.
This post originally appeared in February 2016 and was updated in February 2019.
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