Nory Ryan’s Song by Patricia Reilly Giff

American History Club has restarted for the year. Our first topic is immigration, initially focusing on the Irish potato famine. This book looked like it fit the topic perfectly, and was age appropriate for all the kids.

Published: 2000

Genre: middle grade historical fiction

Length: 148 pages

Font: Berkeley Old Style Book

Setting: Ireland, 1845

Summary: Nory Ryan lives in Ireland with her family. Her mother died giving birth to Patch and her father is out on a fishing boat, trying to earn enough money to pay the rent. One local family has already been thrown off the land and their house flattened. Nory tries to save them by going to the widow Anna, who teaches her plant lore. Things look survivable until the growing potatoes rot in the fields. The English landowner wants all the dirty Irish off his land, so he doesn’t help them. People either starve or leave for America. Nory stays the longest, in the hopes her father will come home.

Final thoughts: This book did a great job of putting you back into the setting, which was such a hard time to live. The family was barely scraping by, even before the potato blight hit. You were much better off heading to America, mainly because the English landowners were so ruthless toward their Irish tenants. Then, once the blight hit, there was literally no food. Even though the book didn’t go into too many graphic details, you still felt the suffering as pretty much everyone in the village started to starve. It was heartbreaking to read! Nory, as a tween, has to make the difficult decision to send her youngest brother with another family in the hopes he’ll get to America safely. How can you be sure you’ll even find him again once he’s left the village, let alone the country? Most people couldn’t read to send a letter to let you know where they were. There was a bit of hope, though, in the relationship between Anna and Nory. Anna wanted to teach Nory her plant knowledge, but Nory was too afraid to approach her until there was an emergency in the village.

Title comes from: Nory Ryan was the main character and she was always singing (at least until the famine started)

Reading challenges fulfilled: #77 in my Maybe 100 This Year Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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