Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Nory Ryan’s Song

Nory Ryan’s Song

Patricia Reilly Giff
For ages 12 to and up
Random House, 2002   ISBN: 978-0440418290

Nory always has a song on her lips though she certainly has little enough to sing about. Her family is very poor and there is not a great deal to eat. There is also always the worry that the English landowner is going to throw her family out of their home for not paying their rent. It is a hard time to be poor Irish folk but there is always the potato crop in the field and once that is ready to harvest Nory’s family can be sure that there will always be food on the table at least once a day. Also Nory is sure that things will get better when her father comes home from the sea. Surely he will bring the much needed money for the rent and maybe even enough to pay for tickets so that the family can leave poor hungry Ireland for the fat happy street of Brooklyn, New York, where Nory’s aunt already lives.

With each passing day though it is harder and harder to find something to sing about. Nory’s sister Maggie decides that the time has come to leave Ireland and now it is up to Nory and Celia to hold the family together. Then the most terrible thing starts to happen - the potatoes start to rot in the fields and Nory and her family become a part of a terrible hunger unlike anything any of them dreamed was possible. If only Nory’s Da would come home and if only they could all leave to join Maggie in a place where they can be "free" and no longer hungry.

This often lyrical, both heart warming and heart wrenching account of one family’s experiences during Ireland’s terrible potato famine, is sure to become a classic in children’s historical fiction. Nory’s own sacrifices and her never-ending hope that somehow her family will survive this terrible national tragedy will serve as a reminder of what it was that made so many people have the courage to leave their homes to seek new lives in the New World.