Adult beginners have the difficult task of finding Irish language books that are easy enough to read but that are interesting enough for a sophisticated adult reader. Not as easily said as done. However, Leabhar Breac has a number of High Interest / Low Vocabulary books (Hi-Lo) that should keep adults reading. So, what are the 5 best Irish language books for beginners?
No 1: Bithiúnaigh
Bithiúnaigh (Rogues) by Peadar Ó Cualáin (awarded the first prize, Oireachtas 2007), a fantasy novel for young teenagers, is number one on our Best 5 list of Irish language books for Beginners. Although written for teenagers, this short novel is high on humour and should keep you turning the pages (and holding your sides) until the very end.
The two main characters, the Lorgaire (or Detective) and big Mac Giolla Mór are two very different people. Although the Lorgaire is a little fellow, according to himself he is a big detective – someone who detects big things!! As for Mac Giolla Mór, the Lorgaire thinks he would make a fine assistant – he could break a lock for him, carry big bags, or even frighten away rogues
But even bag-carriers have to be fed, and now, as the land is threatened by a fierce dragon from the North, Mac Giolla Mór is only worried about his stomach. And not only does the Lorgaire have to convince his hungry friend to help him search for the dragon, but first they find food, and battle an assortment of rogues! Easier said than done!
To buy Bithiúnaigh or other Irish language books by Peadar Ó Cualáin, visit our Bithiúnaigh books page.
Number 2: An Bradán Feasa
Along the same lines, No 2, An Bradán Feasa (The Salmon of Knowledge), is an illustrated book for children, equally suited for adult beginners. The ‘hook’ for adult readers in this book, is its familiar subject matter: the story of Fionn mac Cumhall and the Salmon of Knowledge.
Most adult readers will remember from childhood that long ago, when the High-King of Ireland held court in Tara, he had a band of warriors called the Fianna. They were fine strong men who kept the High-King’s peace in Ireland, and Fionn mac Cumhaill was the leader of the Fianna.
From the time Fionn was a child, his enemies wished to kill him and to take his place at the head of the Fianna. To defend himself against his enemies, the female warrior Bómall taught Fionn how to fight. But, to survive, he had to learn to be brighter and cleverer than any other living person. To this end, he must gain magic knowledge — and where better to find that but from the Salmon of Knowledge!
Along with two more Irish language books available to buy in the Fionn collection, Dóiteoir na Samhna (The Holloween Burner), and Bodach an Chóta Lachna (the Grey-Coated Churl), An Bradán Feasa is a retelling by author and illustrator Darach Ó Scolaí, of the great legends of the Fianna for the Irish readers of today.
Number 3: Gealach
Gealach (Moon) is a novel by one of Ireland’s finest novelists and short story writers, Seán Mac Mathúna. Written for teenagers, the Oireachtas Award-winning Gealach is a fast-moving helter-skelter ride of a book that will entertain young and old alike. According to Pól Ó Muirí in the Irish Times (01.12.2012) Gealach is “a story that sits comfortably somewhere between Ros na Rún and Black Beauty.”
The eponymous horse Gealach, one of the finest racehorses in Canada, is the pride of the La Tour farm in Nova Scotia. As she is being ferried across Fungie Bay she falls into the sea and, in heavy fog, disappears from view. On the farm, the twins, Jack and Liz, refuse to believe Gealach has drowned, and hurry off to find her. But time is short: the farm is in debt to the banks and, without their prize mare, they will lose everything.
Not only that, she is carrying a foal and, if she is still alive, they must reach her quickly or both horse and foal will drown.
Along with other Irish language books by Seán Mac Mathúna available to buy on our site, Hula Hul and Doras Fuinneog Scuab, Gealach can be visited on our Seán Mac Mathúna books page.
No 4: Súil le Breith
Moving away from young reader-oriented Irish language books, Súil le Breith (awaiting birth or hoping for birth) was a controversial novel when first published in 1983. The author, Pádraig Standún, was born in Mayo in 1946. A well-known community activist, he is serving as parish priest in Carna, Co. Galway. He has written ten novels.
It tells the story of Tom Connor, the parish priest on a Gaeltacht island, where he is actively fighting to support a community devastated by emigration and poverty.
However, when his housekeeper, Marion, who lives in the parochial house with him, tells him that she is pregnant with his child. Tom must decide between his duty to his parishoners, his love for Marion, and his belief in the priesthood. The resolution of his dilemma makes for dramatic and heart-breaking reading. Bob Quinn’s award-winning film Budawanny (1987) is based on this Irish language novel.
To buy Súil le Breith visit our Padraig Standún books page.
No 5: Danny, Seaimpín an Domhain
Muiris Ó Raghallaigh’s beautiful translation of Roald Dahl’s 1975 masterpiece, Danny, Champion of the World, is one of Roald Dahl’s most popular children’s books, and is read widely by young and old alike.
The story is about Danny, a young boy, and his father, William, who live in a gypsy caravan fixing cars for a living and partake in poaching pheasants. The plot is centred on the moral dilemma faced by good people who do ‘bad things’, and ultimately shows that one can bring about change by small actions. The book was filmed in 1989 and has been translated into dozens of languages. The added advantage for beginners is that the translation can be read alongside the original.
To buy Danny, Seaimpin an Domhain or other suitable translations, visit our Roald Dahl books page.