Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh

The St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh

Janet Nolan
Illustrator:  Ben F. Stahl 
Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Albert Whitman, 2002   ISBN: 0807573450

Between 1845 and 1851 thousands upon thousands of Irish men, women, and children died when the potato crop failed. A million more left Ireland and came to America to start their lives over. Fergus and his parents were just one of the many families which made the long uncomfortable journey across the Atlantic. Before he left his home Fergus cut off a branch from a blackthorn tree. This he whittled into a shillelagh, a walking stick.

It is within this shillelagh that lies the story Fergus's family. Every St. Patrick's day the story of their flight from Ireland is told. Fergus grows up and gives the shillelagh to his son Declan. In turn Declan gives the shillelagh to his son Emmet and so it goes on through the generations. With each passing generation we see the family gain a better place in life until Ryan becomes the owner of the shillelagh. Ryan has made his family very proud because he went to college. There is one thing he has failed to do though, and it is daughter Kayleigh who reminds him of it. She finds the shillelagh in a closet and asks him about it. Ryan regrets his being too busy "worrying about tomorrow I forgot to tell you our family's story of yesterday." So, they get Grandpa to tell them the story of the shillelagh on St. Patrick's Day.

In this beautiful book Janet Nolan has found a wonderful way to tell the story of her family and its successes through the story of the shillelagh.