by Jean E. Eustance
IN honor of St. Patrick’s Day, March 1t I will be looking at two picture books about leprechauns. Clever tom and the Leprechaun is retold and illustrated by Linda Shute. It is found in the Pine Bush Library in the folklore and fairytale section, on a free-standing set of shelves in the Children’s Department. The other book, Shannon and the World’s Tallest Leprechaun is written by Sean Callahan, and illustrated charmingly by Kathleen Kemly. It is found in the Juvenile Picture book section, the long set of shelves on the wall.
Clever tom and the Leprechaun is a retelling of “The Field of Boliauns” from Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland, published in 1825 by folklorist T. Croftion Croker. In it, Tom catches a leprechaun and demands his pot of gold. As long as Tom does not look away or blink, the leprechaun cannot escape. The leprechaun directs him to a big field of boliauns, which are also called ragwort. He tells him which ragwort bush the gold is buried under. Tim cleverly ties the red garter, which was holding up one of his socks, to the ragwort bush. The leprechaun vanishes.
Tom runs home to get his shovel, and make his fortune. But when he gets back to the field, he finds that every single ragwort bush has a red garter tied around it. He spends the rest of the day digging up bushes and never finds the pot of gold. This is a traditional leprechaun tale. The leprechaun is never tricked out of his gold. Tom spends the rest of his life waiting for the second chance of finding the leprechaun and the treasure. Clever Tom is a classic, and a lot of fun.
Shannon and the World’s Tallest Leprechaun is not a traditional tale. Shannon is practicing hard to dance well in the ST. Patrick’s Day step dance contest, to be held at the Irish-American Heritage Center. She is worried that the other girls will dance better than she does, and they all have either fancy shoes, fancy wigs, or dressed imported from Ireland. When the heel breaks off one of her shoes, she knows that Mom and Dad can’t afford to buy her new shoes. What now?
She decided to give up and throw away the shoes, but at the last moment tries something her father had said. “If you close your eyes and counted backward in Gaelic, the ancient language, a leprechaun might appear to grant a wish.” She does, and HE does—Liam, the world’s tallest leprechaun (five –foot-eleven) appears and says he will grant three wishes to her, one a day. She asks for a fancy dress and a wig and shoes with heels that don’t break off.
“A wig? A dress?” the leprechaun scoffed. “”What do those have to do with dancing?” But a shoe—you do need that. “Give me the broken one. I’ll show you how to take care of the perfectly fine stuff you already have.”
He helps her repair the shoe (a leprechaun is the fairy shoemaker after all) and then says that’s wish number one, and he vanishes.
The next day he is back to help her dance—by asking her to teach him how to dance. By teaching him she improves her dancing. That’s wish number two. The third day, they dance again. Then Shannon asks, “Do you have a pot of gold buried at the end of the rainbow?”
“Aye, that’s true,” Liam said. “Did you Google me or something?”
“Is it within the rules for me to wish for some of your gold?’
“Tis, and if you practice some more, tomorrow, on St. Patrick’s Day you will have some,” he said, grinning.
The next day, Shannon dances in the competition, and wins, despite her homemade dress and repaired shoes. She sees Liam standing at the back of the crows. “When Shannon won first prize, she caught sight of a rainbow arcing across the sky.” It seemed to point right to the shinning medal hanging around her neck. So this was the leprechaun’s gold!”
Shannon and the World’s Tallest Leprechaun is a great book and everyone should read it.