Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day, Tomie dePaola-Style

Based on old Irish folktales told to him by his Irish grandfather, here are two stories about shameless, lazy Jamie O'Rourke -"the laziest man in all Ireland"- that are strictly for fun and giggles, written by the marvelous Tomie dePaola.

In Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato, Jamie's industrious wife Eileen has prepared and planted the praties (potatoes) that they will need to see them through the winter, without the help of her lazy husband. When Eileen hurts her back harvesting the potatoes, and ends up in bed, lazy Jamie imagines himself starving through the winter. On his way to church to confess his sins in case he should die of starvation, he chances on a leprechaun. After catching him and being granted one wish, Jamie's wish gets away from him.

In Jamie O'Rourke and the Pooka, Jamie is left behind to tend to the chores while his wife Eileen is away visiting family. Of course, being Jamie, he does nothing but please himself and make messes, with some help from his friends. Much to his shock, he finds upon waking that the house is clean. Jamie determines to find out who is doing the cleaning. That's how he meets the Pooka, and learns a lesson. Or does he?

Read these stories with an Irish brogue and your children will find it hilarious. Chances are they will find it hilarious even without the brogue, but it makes it ever so much more fun.

What a lot of giggling my girls (well, the older two) did during these stories.* When we were done, my seven-year-old (who has avidly read and re-read Mr. dePaola's Fairmount Avenue autobiographical series) sighed and said, "Boy, Tomie sure writes good books!" Yes, he does.

There are no lessons learned by Jamie at the end of the books; he doesn't change his stripes and become caring or conscientious. I certainly don't think every story needs to have a lesson. (More on that in another post.) But kids, being kids, will always look for meaning, and I've found that kids learn the lessons for Jamie. Even while they giggle at his antics and foolishness, they shake their heads and say, "He shouldn't be like that. His poor wife, having to do all the work."
Later in the day I overheard a discussion between my two oldest about Jamie having a lot to learn and his wife being too nice to put up with him. My six-year-old said -in reference to his wife's goodness in the face of his selfishness- "Well...sometimes you should do nice things for people, even if they don't deserve it." if I could only get her to apply that with her sisters...

*(A word of caution: my three-year-old thought the pooka looked scary -'though really he wasn't. And she frequently asked why he was mad, because his expression looks quite evil sometimes. But he isn't; he only does good things. We had to keep reassuring her.)


  1. We love these two too! And we never call them plain old potatoes anymore -- always praties around here!

  2. Very fun! I love Tomie dePaola also. Funny you mentioned his Fairmont Ave. series. I didn't know about it but just happened upon it this past weekend on the library shelves. I thought it looked really good, like soemthing my 7 yr old would love.

  3. Janet - Aren't they fun? "Praties" is indeed a MUCH more intersting word.

    Alice - You should try them. My girls both love this series, especially my 7year old. It's Tomie's autobiographical account of his growing up years, with many funny and endearing (and some sad) incidents, written for young readers. The series starts with "26 Fairmont Avenue", a Newbery Honor book.
    We read them aloud first. They make great read-alouds. And now my oldest keeps re-reading random books from the series.

  4. Darn, I keep leaving out the "u" in "Fairmount".

  5. Believe it or not, we haven't read either of these! I MUST read the Fairmount Ave. series. I'll bet my independent reader would like them.

    I'm so glad you linked up today!

  6. Amy, it's been fun to participate and see what everyone else is reading.