NORY RYAN’S SONG by Patricia Reilly Giff
Kirkus Star

NORY RYAN’S SONG

Age Range: 11 - 13
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Newbery Medal–winner Giff (Lily's Crossing, 1997, etc.) weaves wisps of history into this wrenching tale of an Irish family sundered by the Great Potato Famine. The three Ryan sisters, their mother dead and their "da" away at sea, are struggling to make ends meet and care for old Granda and three-year-old Patrick, as their predatory English landlord waits for his rent on one side and America's golden promise glitters over the horizon on the other. Heralded by an ominous odor, blight sweeps through the potato fields, wiping out the crops overnight. Through young Nory's eyes, the aptly named Great Hunger is devastatingly real: not only do livestock and grain disappear, but so do shellfish and kelp, and finally even nettles and other weeds. Families are mercilessly driven from their homes, the dead are buried without ceremony, and little Patrick becomes ever thinner and more pitiable. Grasping at a sudden chance, big sister Maggie takes off for America, then Granda and teenage Celia set out for Galway, hoping to meet Da on the docks--leaving Nory to care for Patrick, and for old Anna Donnelly, a neighbor with a tragic past, as well. Nory makes the hardest sacrifice of all when an emigrating family invites her along and she sends Patrick in her place. So grim is the picture Giff draws that readers are likely to be startled by the sudden turnaround at the end, when news of Da's reappearance brings ship's passage for all and the prospect of a happy reunion in New York. Still, Nory's patient, stubborn endurance lights up this tale, and the promise of better times to come is well deserved. Riveting. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 2000
ISBN: 0-385-32141-4
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2000




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