All about Ireland
By: Bethany Porter, Collection Development Specialist.
It’s that time of year again! When the whole world seems like it’s raining, and I wear green EVERY DAY, and I can’t stop talking about that one place that I love so much…
St. Patrick’s Day brings out the worst in me, and I’m the first to admit it! I accidentally rambled about the origins and history of the Irish Gaelic language (but not in Irish – I’m not that good) to one of my coworkers for a full 10 minutes before I realized he didn’t really care so much.
My husband and I took our Honeymoon in January. Before you get too excited about our nuptials, you should know that we went to Europe for the sole reason that I wanted to go back to Ireland, and he was just along for the ride. We landed in Dublin exactly 6 years since I last landed in the country, which felt exciting and a bit surreal. Our first day was spent wandering around the city, shopping, and looking for the library.
My takeaways from this Irish library:
- Wow, there are a lot of people here! Every single computer was in use, and almost every single quiet reading/work table was occupied.
- They had a giant bookshelf dedicated to other languages – everything from Polish, to Irish, to Italian.
- We walked through the quietest children’s department I have seen in my entire life. There were about 30 kids (with parents) in the department, all playing or reading, and not a single screamer!
If you haven’t noticed yet, I stop by libraries every chance I get. I used to work for Public Libraries, so they still hold a special place in my heart. One time my husband and I almost got thrown out of the Teen Department at the Chicago Public Library, but that’s a different story. (If you frantically yell “I’m a teen librarian looking for ideas!” the CPL security guard will take pity on you and let you stay for 5 minutes).
We were only in Dublin for about 3 days (not nearly long enough). We took a bus up to Belfast to visit one of my friends next. We drove up to the Giant’s Causeway (below). It was the third time I had seen the Causeway, and it was the least crowded it’s ever been, and the most clear, beautiful day – we were expecting fog and rain, and we were pleasantly surprised. It was a cold day, so we welcomed the effort of the long hike along the cliffside. I learned that some of the people who used to live in this part of Ireland used to be kelp farmers – they would walk straight up the cliffside with heavy piles of kelp on their heads! (Local farmers used to feed kelp to their livestock). The cliffside walk is not nearly so dangerous anymore. It’s a wide, windy path. The end of the path wraps around the mountain, and when we got to the end, it felt like the end of the world!
And now for the books! Here are the recommendations of some of my favorite books about Ireland. If you’re feeling:
- Dublin: The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley. A gritty, grungy look at Dublin through the eyes of a teenager.
- North Coast (Giant’s Causeway): Finn McCool and the Great Fish by Eve Bunting. Finn McCool is the last great Giant in all of Ireland, and a mighty battle waged between he and a Scottish giant is what created the amazing hexagonal-shaped rock formations of the Giant’s Causeway. This book tells another story about our favorite giant.
- Cork: I was fortunate enough to live in Cork for about 6 months during my undergraduate career. It’s very much a “college town,” but has a small-town charm that is lacking in most big cities. There is live music to be found every night, if you know where to look! Check out an Irish Pub Songs Some of my favorites: “The Irish Rover,” “Whisky in the Jar,” and “Black Velvet Band.”
- West Coast: Irish Folktales. If you ride through the Irish countryside, you will see hills, valleys, rivers, and generally breathtaking views. Many folktales outline how these landmarks were formed. For a classic written around the time of the Irish Uprising, try “The King of Ireland’s Son.” For my favorite fairy tale, check out “The Story of Etain and Midir” from The High Deeds of Finn and other Bardic Romances of Ancient Ireland.
- Patrick’s Day: How to Catch a Leprechaun by Adam Wallace. I first learned about Leprechauns and other Faerie Folk from an Irish exchange student who lived with my family for a month. Leprechaun stories are great fun (until you enter the realm of that horror movie series), and this one is especially cute. My stepson loves it, and this story is the reason why he currently has a Leprechaun trap made of Legos sitting in our living room, ready for a Leprechaun visit. If you would like a more factual book, check out Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola. It’s a gorgeously written and drawn account of Patrick, the person.
More photos from the Giant’s Causeway: