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Patrick and the President

Review

Patrick and the President

PATRICK AND THE PRESIDENT, a historical fiction picture book written by Ryan Tubridy and illustrated by P. J. Lynch, brings to life four days in June of 1963 that were momentous for two separate, yet connected countries. From June 26th to June 29th, 1963, American President John F. Kennedy visited his ancestral home of Ireland. During his visit he spent time in various locations throughout the country including Dublin, Cork and Galway. On day two of his visit Kennedy travelled to New Ross in County Wexford where one of his great-grandfathers lived before immigrating to America. While in County Wexford the President visited his family homestead in Dunganstown and met some distant cousins.

"Tubridy’s narrative captures the cadence, phrasing and flavor of Irish speech, but in a way that can be understood even by those without an 'ear' for these things"

PATRICK AND THE PRESIDENT focuses on Kennedy’s visit to County Wexford and tells of the visit through the eyes of a young Irish boy, Patrick, who, like everyone else in New Ross, desperately wants to meet the President when he visits. Although this is a work of historical fiction, Tubridy’s research was meticulous and he integrates the fictional Patrick into historical events. For example, when President Kennedy landed in O’Kennedy Park in New Ross there was a large choir of children who sang to the President, including one of his favorite songs, “The Boys of Wexford.” Patrick becomes a member of this choir in Tubridy’s story.

I have had the great fortune to visit Ireland and Northern Ireland on several occasions and I love how Tubridy’s narrative captures the cadence, phrasing and flavor of Irish speech, but in a way that can be understood even by those without an “ear” for these things. I can speak from experience that some Irish brogues are impossible for this American to understand! An example of Tubridy’s phrasing is on opening one; the news of the President’s visit has just been announced and Patrick’s dad exclaims, “’Well, that’s settled so!’ Patrick’s dad said. ‘’Himself’ is coming.’”

"Lynch’s illustrations are realistic and detailed renderings of the people, places and things in the foreground of the illustration with the background elements having more of the soft edges of watercolor."

Tubridy’s narrative is accompanied by gorgeous watercolor illustrations by Irish Children’s Laureate, P. J. Lynch. Even though they are done in watercolor, Lynch’s illustrations are realistic and detailed renderings of the people, places and things in the foreground of the illustration with the background elements having more of the soft edges of watercolor. The layout of the illustrations vary with a mixture of single page full-bleeds, double page spreads and full-bleed double page spreads. The size of the book itself is large, which allows the illustrations to be prominent without overshadowing the text. My favorite illustration is on opening four. The illustration fills about 75 percent of the double page spread and features a close-up of our main character, Patrick, in his classroom with his arm eagerly raised and a querying expression on his face. I love the emotion that Lynch captures in the set of Patrick’s eyebrows and the intensity of his gaze, but my favorite part of this illustration may be the sprinkling of freckles across Patrick’s nose, which cannot be seen in other illustrations.  

PATRICK AND THE PRESIDENT concludes with a full spread of additional information about President Kennedy’s visit to Ireland as well as archival photos from the trip.

The best picture books are those that appeal to readers of all ages and PATRICK AND THE PRESIDENT certainly meets that criteria. And as 2017 is the centennial of JFK’s birth it would make a fantastic addition to other books, in any format, about one of America and Ireland’s most beloved sons.

Reviewed by Aimee Rogers on April 21, 2017

Patrick and the President
by Ryan Tubridy and P. J. Lynch