Notes on Irish Books by Tomie...





I used to make sure I would sing that song EVERY St. Patrick's Day.

As many of you know, I am half Irish and half Italian - Mom was Flossie Downey and Dad was Joe dePaola. So, March 17th was the Feast of St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland. (Although my father told us he was really Italian, actually there is some evidence that he was Roman. How's that, Dad?)

St. Patrick's Day was a really big deal growing up. My Irish grandfather, Tom, would make corned beef that people would cook for "corned beef and cabbage" on March 17th. Tom would take big hunks of meat, salt them, stick cloves in them, rub them with other spices, then put them in a big barrel that he kept in his large walk-in cooler at the grocery and meat store he owned. I'm sure this process was much more complicated than I've recorded above, but the making of corned beef always marked the beginning of getting ready for the celebration.

Tom was a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. I really don't remember what they did, but I know they always had "theatricals" on or around St. Paddy's Day (as it was called).

There is a family story (isn't there always?!) that one year, they were doing a play and my grandfather was in it. There was a very dramatic scene in which my grandfather was sitting on a rock getting his pipe ready to light so he could smoke it. The bad guy snuck up on Tom so that he could bop Tom on the head because Kathleen, the heroine, was in love with my grandfather and not the bad guy. Just as the bad guy was ready to attack my grandfather, one of my mother's cousins in the audience yelled out,

Needless to say, everyone laughed. They had to close the curtains and begin the scene again because the actors were laughing, too.

I also remember when Carol Morrissey, my dancing partner, and I were in one of the Hibernians' shows. We did our number about an Irish boy who fell in love with a Mexican girl - "He was a handsome young Irish lad and she was a Mexican beauty..." This was going to be the first time that my grandfather was going to see Carol and me sing and dance.

Well, we did a great job and Tom was so, so, so proud of us (especially me). He gave me a clay pipe and he gave Carol a shamrock pin - both very Irish things!

The other great thing was that my Mom's cousin was a VERY FAMOUS IRISH TENOR. His name was Morton Downey. He was on the radio every weekday at 12:15 p.m. His program was sponsored by Coca-Cola. Everyone in the United States heard it (if they tuned in, of course).


One St. Patrick's Day, during lunch (we came home from school for lunch in my day - no school cafeteria), we were probably eating grilled cheese sandwiches and for dessert, lime jello. Mom had the radio tuned to Cousin Morton's program. AND right then, over the airwaves, Morton Downey dedicated a Irish song "to Flossie and her kids who are listening - especially Tomie." Do you think I was proud or what? WOW!! I was so glad that I was at least one-half Irish.

We had to pick out our clothes so there were some green things to wear - like socks or a shirt. My grandfather Tom always wore a black bow tie at the store, but on St. Paddy's Day, he wore a GREEN one. In case you didn't know, green is the IRISH color!

It shouldn't come as a surprise that I've done a few Irish books...

(Holiday House)
(Holiday House)
(G. P. Putnam's Sons)
(G. P. Putnam's Sons)

This year on March 17th, I'll be wearing my green underwear and socks and I'll start the day with a hot cup of Irish Breakfast tea. I'll raise my cup to honor my Irish relatives and shout "Erin Go Bragh!"

go to Spotlight On... Strega Nona
go to Spotlight On... Mary Had a Little Lamb Board Book
go to Spotlight On... Pascual and the Kitchen Angels
go to Spotlight On... The Lady of Guadalupe
go to Spotlight On... Adelita
go to Spotlight On... Things Will NEVER Be the Same
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