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New Books, New Learning

March 28, 2019
by Becky Ferrigno

It is sadly the last Thursday in one of my most favorite months of the year. The last Thursday of the month also signals the arrival of a “New Books, New Learning” post. To round out the Irish high holy month, I decided to focus on Irish women authors.

Until recently, most of the authors coming out of Ireland were mainly male. Thankfully, times are changing in Ireland. Women are being awarded the prizes/grants that traditionally had been reserved for their male counterparts. This shift has resulted in the recognition, advertising and financial support of incredible authors tackling a wide variety of subjects. 

Books for Younger Children

Billy Button, Telegram Boy by Sally Nicholls, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey

This book is written with the 5- 8-year-old crowd in mind.

The main character in this historical chapter book is a telegram boy named Billy Button. Follow Billy’s adventures that ensue after he delivers grumpy Mr. Grundle a message from an old sweetheart. This books introduces children to an era where cell phones and the Internet did not exist in a unique and intriguing way!

The Sleeping Giant by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

I have a special love of stories about Irish giants. Finn McCool and the Great Fish happens to be one of my favorites. Needless to say, when my search uncovered this book, I was thrilled. The Sleeping Giant tells the story of a Kerry giant who falls asleep so long people forget who he is. Aren’t the town’s people surprised when the “island” wakes up one day and starts to move! This book was published in 1991 but is definitely worth the read!

Books for Older Children

The Irish love to tell stories. Whether it is in song or verse, they tackle all of the issues in life that cannot be spoken about in other venues. Often, this means their stories are heavy and more suited for an older audience. Here are a few of my favorites. 

Plain Jane by Kim Hood

Jane’s sister has cancer. For the last three years, she has been the focus of their parents’ attention and Jane can’t help but be a little resentful. This novel deals with what it is like to struggle with mental illness, family dynamics and seeing someone you love suffer. This is a very relatable and human book. 

Under the Hawthorne Tree by Marita Conlon-McKenna

I love this series because it brings Irish history to life. Marita Conlon-McKenna’s Children of the Famine Series brings to life the Great Hunger and the mass immigration that followed. The stories follow siblings Eily, Michael, and Peggy as they overcome tragedy, famine, and poverty on their journey to survive in a dangerous new world. This is a must read for any Irish American. Many of the Irish living in the United States today had ancestors who participated in this great migration that reshaped the face of the Western world. 

Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan

If you follow me on Instagram (@becky.ferrigno), this will be a name you recognize. I love her writing and I love her stories. She is an incredible author who tackles incredibly difficult topics with grace and depth. This book follows Apple, who is grappling with her mother’s recent return. While her mother’s return makes Apple feel whole again, the situation is bittersweet. It is only when Apple meets someone more lost than she is that she begins to see things as they really are.

Happy Reading!

Being Irish frames everything I do. My whole world was formed around this heritage and no matter where life takes me, my experience as an Irish person in the world, leads me back to the core of who I am. It has been a pleasure sharing and teaching about Ireland this month over on Instagram. It is my hope that this blog brings that work full circle.

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