The lilting cadence of The Wishing of Biddy Malone makes it a great book to read aloud and the illustrations do a good job of capturing the feel of the Irish countryside and contrasting the faerie kingdom.
As the story opens, we learn that Biddy Malone loves to sing and dance, “[b]ut her singing was like a rusty gate in a wild west wind, and when she danced, her great dundering feet fell over each other.” She also has a terrible temper. One day, in a fit of pique, she throws a pan of milk at her teasing brothers and storms out the door, running through the village and down to the river. When she finally stops, she sees a faerie village, “the kind that children were warned about.” Enchanted, she walks in to hear the music better, but as soon as she enters, everything stops. It is there she sees the most beautiful boy she has ever seen, one who offers her three wishes. She asks to “sing as sweetly as a thrush and dance as lightly as a deer…and for a loving heart.” When she gets home, she discovers that two months have passed, and she still “sang like a squeaking gate and danced with feet like bricks.” But she has been inspired by the visit to the faerie village and every day she dances for hours, slowly improving and despite her mother’s worries about what the little people did to Biddy, she is happier and her temper starts to improve as well. By the time she is fully grown, she is the best singer and dancer in the country, but much to her sorrow she is unable to fall in love. In a temper again, she hears the music from the faerie village and storms past her schoolteacher suitor to confront the faerie who gave her the wishes. His response: “I didn’t offer to grant you your wishes. I just asked you to name them. Then I told you they would be yours.” As she stops to consider what he’s said, he continues that the reason she has been unable to accept anyone’s proposal is that she loves him and he knew he could come back for her. While the wishes weren’t granted, with hard work she has managed to achieve her heart’s desires.
Written by Joy Cowley and illustrated by Christopher Denise, The Wishing of Biddy Malone tells the story of the redemption of Biddy Malone through hard work and perseverance without hitting you over the head with the morals. The singing and dancing that Biddy Malone struggled with are still very much a part of Irish life and worth seeking out on your trip. There is a National Voluntary Cultural Organization that organizes and teaches dances throughout Ireland including as part of the regular school curriculum There are also regular performances of traditional music and it’s worth looking up a festival if you’re interested. If the timing of a festival doesn’t work, there are regular performances of Irish music and dance at the Irish House Party and the Museum of Irish Dance in Dublin. If you can’t make it to Ireland, check out the Dublin Irish Festival sponsored by the city of Dublin, Ireland, in Dublin, Ohio the first weekend in August. It is one of America’s largest Irish festivals. With 500+ performers, the festival is three days of singing, dancing and storytelling in the Irish tradition.