Irish Living Book list – Classic fiction set in Ireland

HomeEducation.ie Living Book Lists Classic Fiction Chapter Books

This is the first post in what will be a series of posts listing living books for Irish home educators with children in primary school. Reading quality books is an important part of a Charlotte Mason education, whether snuggled on the couch reading aloud together or reading to themselves. I had difficulty locating living books set in Ireland and could not find a comprehensive list, so I am slowly creating such a list on this website to share with you.

Tom McCaughren wrote: “When my daughters were growing up I realised there were few books for young people written, set and published in Ireland so I decided to write some myself.” Tom McCaughren wrote a series of chapter books about foxes living in Ireland giving detailed insight into the lives of foxes and how their cubs learn to survive. The series, aimed at age 9+, won many awards when the first books in the series were published in the 1980s. Run for the Hills was published in 2016. As the Sunday Tribune wrote: “Readers feel they are really down there in the world of burrows and earths…”

Tom McCaughren also has five delightful adventures with Irish folklore set in the West of Ireland for the 9-14 age group. (We have not read all his books… Yet?)

I have more books by Tom McCaughren which I will include in a future Irish History Living Book list – Early Modern Age. I picked up many of his books in the second-hand section of Chapters Bookstore in Dublin. You can also try Kennys.

The Bantry Bay series by Hilda Van Stockum chronicles the adventures of the four O’Sullivan children living with their family in the south of Ireland by the shores of Bantry Bay. They include beautiful descriptions of Irish landscapes, including the reality of places like Irish bogs.

  • The Cottage at Bantry Bay (1938) – Amazon UK, Book Depo (I had difficulty locating a physical copy of this, whereas I easily obtained new copies of the next two in the series. Although the story is set afterwards, we had no problem reading Francie on the Run first. The books can stand alone. There is no copy in the library.) You can listen to it on Audible Audiobook – A sweet story of a family of four living in the Cork in the 1930s.
  • Francie on the Run (1939) (Amazon UK, Book Depo) – Francie finds himself making a tour (in the opposite direction from home) around the Emerald Isle. We located the places mentioned on a map of Ireland.
  • Pegeen (1941) (Amazon UK, Book Depo, library)

Also by Hilda Van Stockum is Penengro (Amazon UK, Book Depo) A 12-year-old orphan runs away and is taken in by gypsies, giving a view of the gypsies’ lifestyle in Ireland, probably in the early to mid-1900s. Hilda van Stockum’s book The Winged Watchman, about a Dutch family who live at a mill during the World War II German occupation, is on Ambleside Online’s Y6 Free reads and Groups Form 2C (Amazon UK, Book Depo, Audible Audiobook). We haven’t yet read these.

Flight of the Doves is a well-known, captivating children’s book by Walter Macken, a Galway author, (Amazon UK, Book Depo, library) – Orphans Finn and Derval Dove embark on a dangerous journey across England to Ireland searching for their grandmother in Connemara.

Walter Macken has another children’s book which I would not recommend for young children unless you are reading aloud and easily make changes on the fly as you read, or are ready to discuss this more mature topic: Island of the Great Yellow Ox. In it, the man covers a hole that he has put the 4 young (ages 4 to 8/9) children so they can’t escape. His and his wife plan to escape after a theft, and she says she will phone the police once they are away, so the police can rescue the children. But he is not sure she will. He is an alcoholic and the story details him drinking to forget the children in the hole and his doubt that she will ring and that they will die. The children do escape but I wasn’t comfortable with giving that to my daughter when she was 8 to read to herself. Walter Macken wrote many adult books, which I have not investigated.

I was on Simply Charlotte Mason’s website and I saw her Visits to Europe includes Megan’s Year: An Irish Traveler’s Story by Gloria Whelan (Amazon UK, Book depo, Library). This is a full-page illustrated picture book. I haven’t yet received a copy but I am looking forward to reading it. Gloria Whelan is an American author with a number of books set in various countries. She also has an Irish historical fiction chapter book Hedge School published by Bethlehem Books (Amazon UK, Not in Library) available as an Audible Audiobook.

I hope this list supports you in enjoying quality books! Please let me know if there are other living books you think should be on this list. Subscribe to be informed of new posts, including future living book lists for Irish history.