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BLACK POTATOES by Susan Campbell Bartoletti


The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850

by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-618-00271-5
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Using illustrations from mid-19th-century newspapers and stories of people actually involved, Bartoletti has written a fascinating account of a terrible time. In the Great Irish Famine, one million people died from starvation and disease, and two million fled to other countries after a fungus destroyed the potato crop, a disaster in a country where six million farm laborers depended on that one crop. Bartoletti’s sure storytelling instincts put the reader in the midst of the drama. Though the layout is dense and uninviting (in galley form), the stories make the narrative memorable. Bridget O’Donnel, sick and seven months pregnant, is evicted from her cabin. “Spectre-like” crowds of walking skeletons in Skibbereen on market day see shops full of food they can’t afford to buy. British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel’s determination to persuade the government to help is thwarted by laissez-faire economic policies and religious and ethnic prejudice. This is history “through the eyes and memories of the Irish people,” and it is history that’s meant to instruct. In her conclusion and extensive bibliography, Bartoletti steps back from her narrative to encourage readers to respond to the hunger, poverty, and human suffering in our own time. An illuminating discussion of the Great Irish Famine and how emigrants contributed to the growth of cities around the world. (Nonfiction. 10-14)