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. (Historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-32141-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


A dysfunctional family in the neighborhood gives a young orphan new appreciation for her own abbreviated but loving household in this promising but uneven flashback. When the Wallings move across the street from Shanta Cola Morgan's Atlanta home during the last summer of WW II, she makes two quick friends: secretive Denise, nearly her own age, and Earl, a brain-damaged 21-year-old. Having been raised by her frail grandmother and Uncle Louie—who is nearly paralyzed by arthritis—Shanta envies Denise her parents, until she sees how joyless and cruel they are, and begins to suspect that the family is deeply troubled. Her suspicions are confirmed when she peeks into their cellar one night and finds Earl chained to a wall. Denise and Earl may be sketchily drawn, but Shanta and her grandmother are lively, loving spirits, and the quiet heroism with which Louie preserves hope and self-respect as both his body and his marriage disintegrate almost overshadows the main plot. Shanta frames this as a decades-old memory; despite the present- tense narration, the pacing is slow, and the efforts to draw parallels between the battles overseas and those closer to home are strained at best. Readers impressed by Oughton's Music From a Place Called Half Moon (1995) will find some equally vivid characters here, but may be disappointed by the low level of tension and a quick, too-tidy ending. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-395-81568-1

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



Laboriously harking back to the pulp juveniles of yestercentury—or at least their melodramatic plotting and uncomplicated values—Bell presents the continued exploits of intrepid teen Nick McIver, boy time traveler. Bound and determined to become a hero “molded in the face of danger,” Nick stages a destructive raid on a Nazi airfield in 1940, then darts back to 1781 to rescue his kidnapped little sister from the clutches of hook-handed pirate Billy Blood in the Caribbean, recover from wounds at Mount Vernon (“What’s wrong wid dat po’ chile?” asks the estate’s Cook, before stitching him up sans anesthetic) then rescuing De Grasse’s French fleet from ambush off Nassau so it can sail north to ensure General Washington’s victory at Yorktown. Laced with old-timey language, wild coincidences, arbitrarily trotted-out bit players from the Marquis de Lafayette and Winston Churchill to the odd strumpet or Indian warrior, lurid murders (“The dying victims’ blood mingled with the juice from hundreds of crates of tomatoes”) and explosions aplenty, this doorstopper sequel to Nick of Time (2008) may have a certain retro appeal to adrenaline junkies. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 13, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-312-57810-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet