At EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, we celebrate history that’s truly inspiring. From episodes that have shaped Irish history, such as the Great Irish Famine, to the tales of pioneering Irish people that have affected change all around the world, like humanitarian Mother Jones, we explore history through the eyes of those who have experienced it. Bring these stories to life in the comfort of your own home with our top 10 book recommendations and activities for budding historians.
How I Survived the Irish Famine: The Journal of Mary O’Flynn
By Laura Wilson
Most people know something about the devastation of the Great Irish Famine of 1845 – 52, a period in Irish history that caused over half of Ireland’s population to perish or leave the country. Discover the story first-hand through the fictionalised account of 12-year-old Mary O’Flynn. Composed as a series of journal entries, coupled with original photography of artefacts and interiors, readers journey alongside Mary and her family as they discover the potato crop is failing, face the hardships of famine, and finally gain passage on one of the over-crowded coffin ships bound for North America. What will happen once they reach the promised ‘New World’?
Take it further: Follow in Mary’s footsteps by creating your own diary entries depicting what you, your family and Ireland is currently going through.
Blazing a Trail: Irish Women Who Changed the World
By Sarah Webb
Ever dreamt of changing the world? In this book by two remarkable women – celebrated children’s author Sarah Webb and illustrator Lauren O’Neill – children can be inspired by daring tales of adventure and ingenuity as they discover the amazing feats of Irish women worldwide. From the well-known, such as valiant aviator Lady Mary Heath, the first female pilot in the UK; to the lesser lauded, such as Anna Haslam, a suffragist and figure in the 19th and early 20th century women’s movement in Ireland, there are plenty of stories to surprise, delight and inspire them to take on the world!
Take it further: Using these tales as inspiration, describe what you would like to do to change the world – this could be creating a new invention or championing a social cause, such as animal rights!
Brian Ború: Warrior King
By John and Fatti Burke
Grab your sword and spears, for its time to take on the Vikings! Little warriors will enjoy this beautifully illustrated tale, lifted right out of Irish history. This picture book tells the story of ancient Irish Warrior King Brian Ború. From growing up in a large warrior family over 1,000 years ago in Killaloe, Co. Clare, to practicing raids along the River Shannon, we follow Brian until he eventually becomes King of all Ireland! But alas, Vikings are raiding Dublin and Brian is called to action… What will Brian do?
Take it further: Using whatever you can find in your house, dress up as Brian Ború and his fearsome band of warriors! Why not re-enact a scene from the book in your sitting room?
Artists and Creatives
Ancient Ireland: Colouring Book
By Conor McHale
For children who prefer to be active rather than passive learners, turn history time into an artistic endeavour with this colouring book by Conor McHale. Bringing Ireland’s ancient history to life through a series of detailed illustrations depicting everything from famous figures and historic battles to scenes from Irish myth and legend, this colouring book allows children to explore Irish history while also leaving their own mark on it – plus we’ve all heard about the benefits of mindful colouring for stress relief!
Take it further: Choose a scene depicted in the book, and draw your own version of it. Then, choose a scene from Irish history not depicted in the book, and draw it.
Horrible Histories Gruesome Guides: Dublin
By Terry Deary
Say ‘history’ to some children and they’ll groan and run for cover. Coax them back out with tales from the Horrible History of Dublin – a more gruesome take on Irish history that’ll delight even the most history-phobic of children! Packed to the brim full of stories of blood-soaked battles, violent rebellions – and even fearsome pirates – kids will love this alternative look at Ireland’s capital city. With a story or two tied to all the famous landmarks, such as Dublin Castle and St Stephen’s Green, you’ll get to do some sightseeing too!
Take it further: Why not make the experience even more fun by dressing up for the occasion – and acting out some of the battles? Safely, of course!
Irish Tales of Mystery and Magic
By Eddie Lenihan
Don your capes and gather around – there’s magic and mystery to be found! Discover the fascinating mythology of Ireland retold through the words of what is perhaps Ireland’s most celebrated modern-day Seanchaí (storyteller), Eddie Lenihan. Eddie keeps the ancient Irish tradition of storytelling alive, travelling around the emerald isle to retell tales from a time when creatures stalked Ireland by night and fairies and magic were everywhere. Stunningly illustrated, these stories will charm children (and adults) of all ages – and you’ll learn something about ancient Irish customs and beliefs in the process.
Take it further: Become a Seanchaí (storyteller) just like Eddie, and rewrite a famous story of your choice, before reading it aloud to your family!
Collins Little Book of Irish History
By Neil Hegarty
For older children, those already a bit enamoured with Irish history, or those who want a little more breadth and depth to their studies, the Collins Little Book of Irish History ticks all the boxes. Concise and well put together, with enough content to keep them busy for hours, children can learn something about every major historical period and event from Ireland’s history within its pages. Be it monastic sites, the Irish language, famine, Irish emigration, the Troubles, or even Brexit, author Neil Hegarty has it covered.
Take it further: Why not choose a chapter and do a collage project on it? Include words, pictures you’ve drawn and any images you find, as well as facts and interesting stories you discover during your research. Then present your finished project to your family!
Be an Irish Explorer
By Bex Shelford
Join the ranks of famous Irish explorers and chart a course around Ireland without leaving the couch! In this engaging activity book Bex Shelford introduces younger readers to the history behind Ireland’s most famous sites through active tasks, such as designing a comic strip, drawing the sites, and creating a postcard. Covering historical locations and tourist attractions such as Newgrange and Giant’s Causeway, children can also discover the history behind Irish cultural customs and traditions such as the GAA, St Patrick’s Day and the Irish language. Go hiontach!
Take it further: Using the activities Bex provides as inspiration, choose another well-known historical location in a different country, and explore it through drawing and writing tasks such as designing a postcard for the location.
Nutshell: James Joyce
By Andrew O’Connor (Author)
If you have any talented authors in the house, inspire them by introducing them to life of the man behind Ulysses, the novel that changed writing forever: James Joyce. Part of Poolberg’s In a Nutshell series, this easily digestible and yet grittily illustrated book successfully manages to evoke the atmosphere of the late 19th and early 20th century, all while providing a celebratory overview of the key moments in the life of Joyce and his key works. Suitable for ages 8 and up, journey with Joyce the emigrant as he travels from Ireland to France, Italy and Switzerland, and changes history forever!
Take it further: Do you know any other famous Irish writers who live in Ireland or abroad? Choose one and research their life, creating a mini-biography and a few illustrations similar to the style of this book.
A History of Ireland in 100 Objects
By Fintan O’Toole
While you might not be able to leave the house, it doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge in the museum experience! This book introduces children (and adults) to 100 objects from around the country – objects that hold secrets and stories from Ireland’s history. From the gold lunala that shone on the breast of an ancient king, to the trophy that Irish goldminers in Australia made for a national hero, to GAA medals, pikes and handkerchiefs, the fascinating array of objects featured and their stories will lead your family down a rabbit hole of discovery! The appendix even shows where you can find the objects, so why not make an itinerary for a family adventure in future?
Take it further: This book shows how objects can tell stories. Find an object in your house that is linked to a family story, draw a picture of it, and write why it is important.
Discover these books and more in EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum’s gift shop. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org before visiting for more information.