Celtic Mythology and Irish Legends

A certain Irish holiday is on its way and you may be thinking it would be nice to share a bit of Celtic mythology or Irish legends with the kids to liven up your St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Reading folklore is a great way to learn about another culture.

Celtic Mythology and Irish Legends books for kids

Celtic Mythology & Irish Legends: Books for Kids

I’ve searched out a few picture books and collections of Celtic and Irish folklore to share with you and there is still plenty of time to pop over to the library to check them out before St. Patrick’s Day. In any case, Irish-American Heritage Month lasts all the way to March 31st. (A note to my dedicated book list followers, I’m taking a short break from early chapter books, but I’ll be back eventually with another list.) Note: Book covers and titles are affiliate links.

Too Many Fairies: A Celtic Tale. My 4 year old is loving this tale from master storyteller, Margaret Read MacDonald. When a little old lady grumbles over her chores a group of fairies come to relieve her, but they do not turn out to be as much help as they promise! The narrative contains some lovely repetitive devices that encourage listeners to interact with the story and I love that the moral of the tale is don’t complain about your housework!

Tales from Old Ireland (with CD). I looked at a number of story collections for this list, but many of them had illustrations which were too scarey for my kids. That was not the case with this Barefoot Books publication which also comes with 2 CDs. This is the second year we have checked it out from the library and we were sad again that one disc was missing because the boys loved listening to the tales.

Tales from Celtic Lands. A collection of Celtic mythology, not only from Ireland, but also from Scotland, Wales and Brittany, and another good choice if you want to avoid scarey illustrations.  It’s also from Barefoot Books (I have no affiliation with them, I promise!) and comes with 2 CDs. I love collections which come with audio files because generally my kids want me to read these thick books straight through!

A Pot o’ Gold: A Treasury of Irish Stories, Poetry, Folklore, and (of Course) Blarney. I like that this anthology contains not just stories, but poems, historical facts, recipes, Irish blessings, etc. etc. I could go on. It’s also heavily illustrated.

Fiona’s Luck. Fiona is a clever, witty heroine who makes her own luck instead of relying on magic. She outsmarts the Leprechaun King who has locked all the luck in Ireland away in a chest. I particularly like the illustrations.

O’Sullivan Stew. Kate’s village has been put under a curse by the witch of Crookhaven! Not to worry, this feisty, imaginative and clever Irish heroine manages to rescues them all with her smart, surprising and very humorous storytelling skills.

Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk. Folklorist Gerald McDermott may be best known for his Anansi the Spider tale, but he’s also written this entertaining European folktale. Poor Tim is shunned by his neighbors but when he gets a magic gift he lets the McGoons trick him out of it. Fortunately, there is a group of leprechauns to help him change his fortune.

Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde. Did you know Irish playwright Oscar Wilde also wrote tales for children? I should have put this classic collection on my Classic Children’s Books of the 19th Century list. Younger children will certainly not understand much of the social commentary and satire in these stories and protective parents may wish to delay reading them until their children are older but whatever you decide, the stories will get conversations started, and that is always a good thing.  Project Gutenberg has several versions with illustrations available for free so you can preview it and decide if they are right for you.

Sally Go Round The Stars: Favourite Rhymes from an Irish Childhood. For younger kids, I really love the illustrations in this book of nursery rhymes. Most of the selections are familiar even to non-Irish children but others, like the one with a cat named Pangur Bán will be new.

Leprechauns and Irish Folklore. Ah, The Magic Tree House books: some people love them some people hate them. I have mixed feelings, but I tend to appreciate the non-fiction companion guides because my 8 year old who usually does not read anything that might fall under the “social studies” umbrella will read these books. That’s a pretty good recommendation in my book.

Do you have any favorite Irish or Celtic tales you would add to this list? Is St. Patrick’s Day a holiday you celebrate?

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  1. says

    These are great suggestions! My son and I enjoyed reading Too Many Fairies. I think I need to read it to him periodically as a gentle reminder. :)

    I had no idea that Oscar Wilde had written fairy tales. I’m looking forward to reading those.

    You always have such great suggestions. I’m always buzzing with ideas after reading your blog and looking forward to new books to read with my son.

    Happy President’s Day!

    • MomandKiddo says

      Thanks, the Wilde fairy tales are probably more entertaining for adults and older children, but we need some good reads, too!

  2. says

    I love Tales of Old Ireland. Fiona’s Luck is a HUGE favorite in this house. My oldest still keeps her copy by her bed on her favorites shelf. We also checked an audio version out from the library, and the narrator had the most beautiful Irish accent. Teresa Bateman has written a few more books based on Irish folklore. The illustrations vary, but the stories are always charming.

  3. says

    I haven’t heard of any of these, but I was just thinking I needed to get some St. Patrick’s books from the library. Perfect timing! I just now put most of them on hold.

  4. says

    I’m so glad you were able to put together this list! We really enjoyed the Magic Tree House books in our house, but interestingly, after reading the first 20 or so, the kids kind of lost interest in Jack and Annie.

    Ah, St. Patrick’s Day, I have fuzzy memories of St. Patrick’s Day from my college days, but it’s not really something we celebrate fully. Although we have been known to make green pancakes and dress in green!

    Thanks for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop! :-)

    • MomandKiddo says

      I agree that all the Magic Tree House books do run together, fortunately I don’t have to read them aloud anymore. LOL. The kids like them, though.

  5. says

    Aweome list. Fiona’s luck and Tales from Old Ireland really take my fancy. As a typical Aussie convict of Irish decent I probably should become a little more educated in Irish folklore lol. Thanks for linking in to the hop. Cheers Julie

    • MomandKiddo says

      I don’t have too much Irish heritage, but living in New York, St. Patrick’s Day is huge here so we like to jump on the bandwagon.

  6. says

    What a great list! I much prefer these kinds of books for St. Patrick’s day that have something interesting in them then just a St. Patrick’s Day book that just is a quasi book to celebrate the holiday.

    • MomandKiddo says

      I had a hard time finding any good picture books about St. Pat’s day but I like folklore better, so that’s okay. :)

  7. says

    I realize that Brave was not about the Irish, but I bet that interest in that wonderful movie will cause many children to want to read more about that section of the world. Thanks for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop!

  8. Maeve says

    As an Irish reader I wanted to compliment you on a great list! I love Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales – the writing is so beautiful and it is a wonderful way of introducing younger readers to his work.

    • MomandKiddo says

      Thank you so much Maeve. I’m so glad I was approved by someone who knows what they’re talking about!

    • MomandKiddo says

      Thanks, Jackie. I found that I didn’t like a lot of the St. Pat’s day picture books unless they were specifically connected to folklore.

  9. says

    Great list. We have a couple on our “to read” list for St Patrick’s Day. I might still add Fiona’s Luck if I can find it in the library.

  10. says

    I love this collection! Do you mind if I post the picture and your site link on my page? I publish local events and activities for families. Thank you!

  11. says

    I didn’t even know there were that many cute books about St. Patty’s day, printing this list and taking it to the library with us! Thank you so much for sharing!


  12. says

    As a kid my favorites were Great Folk Tales of Old Ireland by Mary McGarry and Irish Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs. And, of course, the movie The Secret of Roan Inish (unfortunately the book that it’s based on, The Secret of Ron Mor Skerry is out of print and way too expensive, and doesn’t take place in Ireland anyway).
    As an Irish American Mythology/Religion major, I have a love/hate relationship with St. Patrick’s Day. I’m all for celebrating Irish culture, learning Irish history/myths, or recognizing the struggles/triumphs/stories of Irish Americans, but I HATE all of the leprechaun kitsch, blatant inaccuracies, and general misinformation. Making something green does not make it Irish. Celtic =/= Irish, Irish =/= red hair, corned beef and cabbage is not Irish food, and the Irish language is not Gaelic. Not to mention that the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are different and the Republic of Ireland is not part of the UK. Ugh, it makes me so mad and it’s everywhere. I guess you could say it really gets my Irish up… Anyway, if you’re interested, I have a list of other great Irish reads (though less kid-oriented) on my blog’s St. Patrick post from last year (http://boundandgaggedbooks.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/dead-tongues-tell-no-tales/).

  13. says

    So excited to see “Tales of Old Ireland” make this list! Barefoot Books, hands down publishes the BEST books for kids in so many genre’s but so often is left off of these great lists! #livebarefoot

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