“A fun, seasonal classic about lazy Jamie O’Rourke striking it lucky with a magic 'pratie' seed.”
In this classic Irish folktale, renowned children’s book author and illustrator Tomie dePaola—who has celebrated his Irish heritage more than once (Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland)—tells of Jamie O’Rourke, “the laziest man in all of Ireland.” When Jamie’s wife, Eileen, asks him to go out and harvest the potatoes—the “praties”—he insists he’ll “break in two” if he even tries to climb out of bed. But then Eileen hurts her back as she digs, so Jamie has no choice but to get up. (However, he still has no intention of working; he heads for the church to confess to the priest before he starves to death.) Luck strikes as he wanders upon a leprechaun, but lazy Jamie appears to be duped by the leprechaun when he lets him go in exchange for a magic seed. Time will prove it was a good trade, however, as the seed grows a potato so big Jamie shares it with the town folk, who, when they’ve eaten more pratie than they can stand, offer to provide Jamie food for life if he just won’t plant another pratie seed. And being paid to not work is something Jamie can handle: “What a perfect life for a lazy man.” dePaola illustrates his classic tale in his signature folk style with plain, rounded characters and soft colors. A moral tale of the value of a strong work ethic it certainly is not—though Jamie’s laziness is hyperbolized to a laughable level—but as an enduring folktale it connects with the human instinct that drives gold rushes and seems to be for some at least part of the fun of St. Patrick’s Day festivities—the hope of striking it rich with a pot of gold, or in Jamie’s case, one big potato.
The laziest man in all of Ireland catches a leprechaun, who offers a potato seed instead of a pot of gold for his freedom.
Tomie dePaola is one of the most popular children’s book authors and illustrators of our time and the winner of the 2011 Children’s Literature Legacy Award for “significant and lasting contribution to children’s literature,” among other lifetime achievement awards. A Newbery Honor winner, he has written and illustrated a number of books, including Caldecott Honor book Strega Nona and its companions, as well as Oliver Button Is a Sissy; The Legend of Old Befana; The Clown of God; Michael Bird-Boy; Andy, That’s My Name; and Quiet. A native of Connecticut, Mr. dePaola studied at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and now lives in New London, New Hampshire.