Nory Ryan's Song

by Patricia Reilly Giff (Author)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade
Series: Nory Ryan
Nory Ryan's family has lived on Maidin Bay on the west coast of Ireland for generations, raising a pig and a few chickens, planting potatoes, getting by. Every year Nory's father goes away on a fishing boat and returns with the rent money for the English lord who owns their cottage and fields, the English lord bent upon forcing the Irish from their land so he can tumble the cottages and clear the fields for grazing. Times are never easy on Maidin Bay, but this year, a terrible blight attacks the potatoes. No crop means starvation. Twelve-year-old Nory must summon the courage and ingenuity to find food, to find hope, to find a way to help her family survive.
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Publishers Weekly

In a novel inspired by her own heritage, Giff (Lily's Crossing) meticulously recreates An Gorta M r, the Great Hunger, as she traces a 19th-century Irish girl's struggle to survive in her small village of Maidin Bay. As the story opens, 12-year-old Nory Ryan describes her neighbors being put out of their homes and her own family's oppression under English imperialists. Nory's widower father is in Galway earning money for rent while Nory, her two older sisters, Maggie and Celia, and her younger brother, Patch, stay with their grandfather. The celebration of Maggie's wedding and passage to America becomes overshadowed by the grim realities around them. Giff slowly builds the suspense as the potato blight begins to travel down the west coast from Sligo, and describes the rotting smell as the disaster strikes closer to Nory's home. Day-to-day worries about survival supplant the heroine's dreams of some day joining Maggie in New York. Allowing few glimmers of hope and numerous setbacks for Nory and her loved ones, this gritty slice of realism grows increasingly ominous as it progresses. At the same time, the hardships throw Nory together with her aging neighbor, Anna, a healer who initially frightens her, and their growing friendship is one of the novel's greatest strengths. Other characters, such as Celia, Maggie and Granda, are not as fully fleshed out. Still, vivid descriptions of the stench of failed crops and the foul-tasting food that keeps them alive will linger in readers' minds even after Nory's salvation is secured.

Copyright 2003 Publishers Weekly Used with permission.

Review quotes

Reviewed in Bookselling Kids' Pick of the Lists Part Two for October 2000.

From the Hardcover edition.
Patricia Reilly Giff
Patricia Reilly Giff is the author of many beloved books for children, including the Kids of the Polk Street School books, the Friends and Amigos books, and the Polka Dot Private Eye books. Her novels for middle-grade readers include The Gift of the Pirate Queen and Lily's Crossing, a Newbery Honor Book and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book. Nory Ryan's Song, her most recent book for Delacorte, was an ALA Notable Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Patricia Reilly Giff lives in Weston, Connecticut.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Yearling Books
Publication date
September 20, 2002
Nory Ryan
BISAC categories
JUV001000 - Juvenile Fiction | Action & Adventure
JUV013000 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | General
JUV016040 - Juvenile Fiction | Historical | Europe
Library of Congress categories
Flicker Tale Children's Book Award
Nominee 2003 - 2003

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