A review of The Copper braid of Shannon O’Shea by Laura Esckelson

Reviewed by Molly Martin

The Copper braid of Shannon O’Shea
by Laura Esckelson
Illustrator Pam Newton
Dutton Juvenile
Hardcover: 32 pages, ISBN-13: 978-0525461388

The Queen of sprites leads the group, there are old and young, some with picnic baskets, some with babies on their backs, male and female, children sprites towed in a cart and some flying overhead. The copper braid of Shannon O’Shea was unbraided one fall on account of the hay. Directed by Bernice, their queen, the sprites who should have known to leave the braid bound began undoing ribbons and bows holding Shannon’s braid. As they worked more and more things began to appear, beginning with the hat the sprites found thimbles and buttons, crab apples, a jar of orange marmalade and raccoons and even some crows nibbling on corn growing in the coppery braid. Shannon began to sneeze due to the dust and the pollen, but nobody could hear, the sneezes were drowned out by the honking of geese. And so it went with seagulls, and silky cocoons, butterflies, moths and a flock of lost loons, carolers still singing were surprised to learn the holiday was now 9 months passed. Steeples and pillars and spires, purple potatoes, wild green tomatoes, and some marvelous beasts, a griffin, a sphinx with a hummingbird perched on his head, emeralds and gold nuggets, limos and taxis and much more.

I have always enjoyed St Paddy’s Day, the wearing of the green and all. And while we talk of leprechauns and little folk and Ireland; nothing is quite so Irish for Osage County First Grade as when I bring out the book featuring Shannon O’Shea and all that wonderful coppery hair.  I find Osage County First Grade enthralled with the tale of Shannon O’Shea, her hair, the sprites and all the strange and wonderful and fun things going on in that braid. What a lovely imaginative read! Sprites all have coppery hair, are dressed mainly in turquoise with a little orange and green added here and there, are cheery in appearance and do not appear frightening at all.

The page showing raccoons also receives much attention, Osage County First Grade loves the stories I can tell about visiting raccoons who come to my house each night hoping to find left overs from the food I put out for feral cats, abandoned dogs, and the raccoons themselves. These in the book are some might cute, roly poly raccoons, and they eat the orange marmalade found by the sprites. The Copper Braid of Shannon O’Shea is a super fun, child friendly, totally implausible tale, filled lots and lots of fun two line rhymes.

As the sprites unravel the braid, Osage County First Grade begins to realize we have not seen Shannon O’Shea, until at last, page after page is unplaited until two red shoes can be seen, and on the next page is Shannon O’Shea.  And Shannon joined in with the laughter and song, After she’d asked them ‘What took you so long?’  And the sprites quickly set to rebraiding all seventeen miles of that, clean, beautiful, coppery hair while Queen Bernice and several of the babies sit smiling and munching bagels, Shannon is shown sipping lemonade, and that cute dog sits nearby.

This is a book I get out during the last days of February, and begin reading 1 page a day, day 1 is page one, day 2 read 1 and 2 and so forth. Until on the last day before our spring break I read the book in its entirety, we get to finally see Shannon O’Shea and have enjoyed the tale and rhymes to the fullest.  Each day we write the new rhyme words in our journals and practice saying them. By book’s end we have added many rhyming words to our journals and have enjoyed a really fun tale about a little Irish girl. During the period we work with our globe and maps to help us understand where to find Ireland in the world, we discuss leprechauns and societal tales and the fun of childhood. I find The Copper Braid of Shannon O’Shea to be a wonderful teaching aid, a lovely and fun narrative.

Reviewed by: molly martin
20+ years classroom teacher