Perfect Picture Book Friday – Jamie O’Rourke And The Big Potato: An Irish Folktale

Hurray!  It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!

With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, I wanted to share an Irish folktale that my kids loved when they were little.  It’s not about St. Patrick’s Day, but it does have a leprechaun in it 😊

Jamie O'Rourke

Title: Jamie O’Rourke And The Big Potato: An Irish Folktale

Written & Illustrated By: Tomie de Paola

A Paper Star Book, The Putnam & Grosset Group, 1997, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: folktale (Irish), laziness, luck, making assumptions, humor

Opening: “Jamie O’Rourke was the laziest man in all of Ireland.
He would do anything to avoid working, especially if it had to do with growing potatoes.”

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text and illustration copyright Tomie dePaola 1997 Putnam&Grosset Group

Brief Synopsis: Jamie O’Rourke is so lazy he makes his wife do all the work.  When she hurts her back, he figures they’ll starve so he goes to confess his sins.  On his way to church he comes upon a leprechaun who offers a solution – a seed to grow the biggest potato in the world.  The leprechaun thinks he’s tricked Jamie, but in the end, it is Jamie who wins!

Links To Resources: Leprechaun Crafts; Leprechaun Coloring Pages; Easy Shamrock Pretzel Pops (recipe)

Why I Like This Book: I love the folktale language and rhythm of this story.  Jamie is delightful in his laziness.  When his wife hurts her back, he assumes they will starve (because he’s not going to work!) so he goes to confess his sins to Father O’Malley.  In an Irish twist on Jack and the Beanstalk, Jamie comes upon a leprechaun and accepts a seed that will grow the biggest potato in the world instead of the leprechaun’s pot of gold.  The potato grows so big it takes the whole village to dig it up, and then, as things tend to happen in folk tales 😊 it rolls down the hill and blocks the only way into or out of town.  The end result? The whole village gets enough potato to last them through the winter but when spring comes they are SO TIRED of eating potato that they bargain with Jamie: if he promises not to plant another giant potato, they will gladly make sure he and his wife always have enough to eat.  So lazy Jamie wins the day!  This ending – a reversal of expectation (you’d assume that Jamie would learn to do an honest day’s work) gives a great opportunity to talk about making assumptions, what a more deserving solution might have been, and surprise endings.  A fun story all around. 😊

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

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illustration copyright Tomie dePaola 1997 Putnam&Grosset Group

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!


Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 😊☘️

20 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday – Jamie O’Rourke And The Big Potato: An Irish Folktale

  1. ptnozell says:

    Susanna, thank you for reminding me of this gem! An original fractured fairy tale! And perfect for anyone wishing to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, even if all of the parades are cancelled.

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      Isn’t this a fun book, Patricia? I really enjoy it 🙂 Maybe it’s time for some new high jinx and shenanigans… perhaps all us creative kidlit folks should put our heads together and figure out a way to make an online parade for St. Patty’s that everyone can enjoy safely! Blog-to-blog scavenger hunt? Picture challenge on Instagram?

  2. viviankirkfield says:

    I saw the illustrations and I knew it was the master – Tomie de Paola – I don’t know this gem of his…thanks for sharing it, Susanna.
    And please stay safe…such a sad and crazy situation right now in the world.

  3. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    I love that this book goes against expectations, especially since so many books are now designed to model reformed behavior, and I’m not sure that’s what kids really want, unless the justice involves mean kids/people. I raise a glass to St. Patrick. Cheers!

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      I love that too, Jilanne. It’s one of the best things about this book. Just because laziness wins out doesn’t mean you can’t discuss why that might not be the best thing… and it makes the story fun 🙂 Happy St. Patty’s to you too!

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