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The Children of Lir

The Children of Lir

Ireland's Favourite Legend

Written by Laura Ruth Maher, Illustrated by Conor Busuttil

This charming rhyming story tells the legend of The Children of Lir, who were turned into swans by their wicked stepmother and forced to wander across Ireland for 900 years.


Kate Greenaway Medal - 2021

CILIP - Nominated

Hardback: €14.99
Hardback: 32 pages
Size:261x216 mm
ISBN: 9781788491068

On a little green island in days of old
A story of magic and courage was told
There once stood a fortress, four children lived here
Along with their father, the mighty King Lir …

This charming rhyming story tells the legend of The Children of Lir, who were turned into swans by their wicked stepmother and forced to wander across Ireland for 900 years.

The Children of Lir is a story from long, long ago, part of an ancient oral tradition, handed down from generation to generation. It’s Ireland’s best-loved legend: the story of Fionnuala Aodh. Fiachra and Conn – the children of King Lir - and how they were turned into swans and cursed to wander until the toll of a bell broke the spell and freed them from the enchantment.

Laura Ruth Maher is a Montessori Teacher from Dublin. She has completed a Degree and Masters in Early Education, her research focusing mainly on storytelling and the importance of rhyme for early literacy development. Laura has always had a great love for Irish myths and legends and is delighted that they can now be shared with a younger audience, her son included! She currently lives in Warwickshire, England, If her head is not stuck in her books she can usually be found running or enjoying a cup of tea and a sneaky biscuit or ten with her family. 

Conor Busuttil

Conor Busuttil is a children’s picture book illustrator and passionate doodler. His most recent works include projects for the Blue Peter "Here be Dragons" competition, the exhibition and trail for Kew Gardens and working with Hampton Court Palace to bring their history to life for children. He was recently selected by The Eric Carle Museum as a rising star. 

Conor is a lover of all things nature. Growing up in a small country village on the Strangford Lough coast in County Down, he spent many a day exploring the marshy farmlands for tadpoles and newts, and the rocky coastline in search of the mysterious creatures the tide left behind in its seaweedy pools.

Many of us know The Children of Lir as a haunting tale of the Irish folklore tradition. Stepmothers fervently stash old copies from their newly conferred brood. Laura Ruth Maher’s re-telling of the famous legend, illustrated in watercolour by Conor Busuttil, however, is a gentle edition of the tale that cushions some of the story’s harder edges. Maher has a keen interest, and has completed research, in the importance of rhyme for early literacy development. Her use of rhyme in this book is simple but effective and imparts a meditative quality to its reading. The intoning rhythmic pattern takes hold and allows the child opportunity to anticipate rhyme. This meditative mood is complemented by Busuttil’s naturalistic watercolour illustrations. The illustrations are given ample space – often full pages – to narrate the tale with emotion. Busuttil’s palette, like Maher’s prose, is soft – blues, greens and yellows – which makes cruel Aoife’s flaming red hair all the more shocking. This charming re-telling is a wonderful introduction to Irish legendry for young people. The high-quality production – that is both hardback and of substantial size – lends itself ideally to group-reading scenarios (though can equally be enjoyed between parent and child). The Children of Lir would make a wonderful gift or addition to the learning environment!

Children’s Books Ireland

a lovely introduction to Irish legends for children … a rhyming version of The Children of Lir which enables children to join in … suitable for 1st class upwards … a lovely, enjoyable book for children and teachers

InTouch Magazine

magical story 

Bray People

O’Brien Press has been producing beautiful books for the last 45 years … this rhyming version is a particularly good

Sunday World

a modern twist on a classic Irish legend of times past … A must read for all young people, either with or to them. Rich in language and with a playful use of rhyming, this book is a treat. I read this book to my two boys who are seven and four, they thoroughly enjoyed the colourful and detailed illustrations. They love to read and re-read this book and in no time at all they were completing the rhymes for themselves! This book is a great resource for teaching Myths and Legends in primary schools. It integrates well with Literacy and in particular the use of rhyming couplets provides a wonderful stimulus for exploring this rhyming technique' Sarah Ryan (Primary Teacher & mother of two small boys)

Seomra Ranga

In The Children of Lir … Laura Ruth Maher finds music and rhythm in the ancient Irish myth … Conor Busuttil’s pencil drawings bring character to each of the children, both in their human and their avian form, and he cleverly uses the details of torcs and headbands to ensure we know which child becomes which swan. The watercolours draw from a warm palette that cuts through the fear inspired by the flame-haired beauty Aoife, making the story suitable for young readers, as well as those already exposed to Irish mythology

Irish Times

charming … the perfect introduction to Irish legends for children

NI4Kids Magazine

this rhyming version of the Irish legend is the perfect introduction to the genre for younger readers … a lovely retelling

Woman's Way Magazine

beautiful illustrations

RTE Guide

The illustrations in this really really bring it to life

RTE Radio 1’s Claire Byrne Show

In Ireland we are so lucky to come from an island of storytellers, with endless ancient tales for all ages ... Young readers aged 6+ might also enjoy delving into traditional Irish myths and legends like Laura Ruth Maher’s retelling of The Children of Lir illustrated by Conor Busuttil

RTEJr Book Club

Teaching Resources: free to view and download

  • Download Activity sheets: 11 activity sheets for children throughout primary school by Peter Heaney

Also by Conor Busuttil:

Billy Conker's Nature-Spotting Adventure
Ulster Fairytales and Legends

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