Review of “Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato”

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Tomie dePaola has quite an intriguing background, coming from a strong mixture of both Irish and Italian families. In the note at the beginning of the story, he shares how his Irish grandfather was a great storyteller, and reveled in regaling his grandchildren with Irish tales. I believe it is safe to say that dePaola certainly learned well, and has his grandfather’s gift for spinning a tale!

“Jamie O’Rourke was the laziest man in all of Ireland.”

Right from the beginning of the story, we have a strong sense that Jamie O’Rourke is far from being a hard-working, dependable man, and is rather a slothful man who would rather lie in bed and let his wife do all the work. It is only when Jamie’s wife, Eileen hurts her back and is confined to bed that Jamie gets out of bed himself. But, as we learn, not out of concern for his wife– but for himself!

“No Eileen to dig meant no praties all winter, and no praties meant no food.”

Throughout the book, the bad character of Jamie O’Rourke is displayed. He is a lazy, irresponsible, greedy, and proud man, and it takes his wife’s generosity and good sense to save them from ruin. In the end, while the book has a hilarious ending,  I doubt children will want to imitate Jamie O’Rourke!

“If you promise not to plant it, Jamie, we’ll promise before St. Patrick and all the saints to see that you and Eileen always have plenty to cook and eat.”

Overall, I thought the story was a very funny one, showing clearly how despicable the flaws of Jamie O’Rourke were. The illustrations in the book are also sure to be enjoyed by children!

I will warn that the book does discuss the possibly disturbing (to some) topic of leprechauns, and is written from a Catholic perspective, thus it also discusses saints. I found the book to be a wonderful rendition of an Irish folktale, and would give the book an “A”.

Have you read the book? If so, what are your thoughts?

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