Ever since Number One was very small, I have been on the lookout for books in Irish (gaelic) for him, and later for his younger brothers. Over the years we picked up a few here and there while on holiday in Ireland. None fit my criteria.
The books I saw on sale were either too difficult, being translations from English or other languages, or were simply picture dictionaries. What I had in mind were proper toddler books with a simple message and simple language. I could find any amount of that sort of book in English and in German or French, but not in Irish. I was so frustrated I began to consider writing one myself.
This year on our annual summer holiday to Ireland I finally struck lucky. For a start, I found a pretty set of placemats with the animal names in Irish. But the real excitement came when I wandered into the children’s section of a bookshop in Westport, Co. Mayo (I think it may just have been called The Bookshop, but I could be wrong). There I found a huge range of children’s books in Irish. I bought four, two of which have become favourites with Number Three.
They are from the same series and follow the simple, toddler adventures of a little boy called Macán. There are so many things I love about these two books. Let’s start with the names:
Macán San Oíche Dhorcha (Macán in the Dark Night)
Macán ar an bPota (Macán on the Potty)
The graphics are what drew my eye to these books in the shop. Macán himself is an unusual looking little fella, a real character. The pictures are bright and unfussy and, best of all, really give a sense of the context.
Then there is the type of book. We are gone past the cardbord pages type of book. These have proper, thin pages but with a wipe-clean, hard-to-rip coating. Ideal for toddlers. Sticky fingers don’t mean stuck together pages. One wipe with a damp cloth and the book is as good as new.
What I really love, though, is the storytelling. The stories are short and to the point. There is a good level of repetition, which is great for language learning at any age and which is particularly appealing to toddlers. Each page has a few short sentences with no difficult words or strange sentence structures.
The stories are realistic too. In one book he is scared of the dark, calling for his mammy then his daddy, then both parents to come to him to check his wardrobe for monsters, to check under the bed, to tell his bad dream to. In the other book Macán is presented with a potty and had no idea what he is supposed to do with it. He goes through several funny scenarios with his mammy before she lets him in on the real use.
As far as I can see, the books are translated from French, but they are really well done. There is a third book in the series – Macán ag ithe a Dhinnéir – and I will definitely be buying it. It is all about Macán eating his dinner, another fun toddler topic.
This is not a sponsored post. But we are really pleased with these books and, since it took me so long to find them, I wanted to share them with you. They are not that easy to track down, but can order them online here from this independent bookshop in Belfast. I have never ordered from that bookshop, so I can’t vouch for their quality of service, but they are the only company that turned up on my search.
If you have any recommendations for children’s books in easy Irish, please leave a comment and let me know.
4 thoughts on “Toddler-Friendly Irish Books”
Hi Fionnuala, Love reading your blog and all about your adventures. I grew up in Westport but now live in NZ and I loved reading about your holiday in Mayo this year 🙂 Every time I go back there I come away with some Irish books for my children from The Book Shop, which is a real treasure trove. I return to NZ with great intentions to share my heritage and some Irish with my children, but sadly by the time we recover from the jetlag, we are back in our busy routines and the intentions are forgotten until the next trip back! Keep up the writing, Bid
Oh thanks so much Biddy. It is lovely to hear that you are doing your bit to keep your children’s Irish heritage alive. Pull those books out and surprise the folks at home by having the children say a few words in Irish next time you go back on holiday.