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Maggie's Door    by Patricia Reilly Giff order for
Maggie's Door
by Patricia Reilly Giff
Order:  USA  Can
Wendy Lamb Books, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

The potato famine has made it impossible for the residents of Maidin Bay, Ireland to survive. Those able to afford it, have purchased tickets to sail to America in search of a better life. Nory Ryan and her small brother Patch are making their way to the ships so that they can set sail. Weak from hunger, they find the road long and tortuous.

Nory sends Patch ahead with Sean Red Mallon and his mother, hoping they will get away quickly. Through an unsettling turn of events, Sean becomes separated from them, yet Nory miraculously happens upon Patch. Together, they travel to the waterfront and find their Granda waiting for them. Sean makes it to the boat later and is hired as a cook's assistant. Nory, Patch, and Granda have tickets for the lower class section of the ship. Even though conditions are deplorable, they receive a meal each day, which is more than they have eaten in months. Will they make it to America to be reunited with the rest of the family?

Maggie's Door continues the story that began in Nory Ryan's Song. Though fiction, it reads like fact. Nory's character is true to life and readers will root for her to reach America and achieve her dreams. Chapters alternate between Nory's and Sean's viewpoints, so that we get a larger picture of each individual's triumphs and tribulations. Patricia Giff writes in a descriptive manner that allows the reader to feel involved in the story. Although glad we didn't live during the potato famine, we can sympathize with those who did.

Though aimed at eight to twelve-year-olds, this story is most appropriate for the upper end of this range. The imagery is realistic enough to disturb younger readers. Those interested in history will enjoy this account from young people's perspectives. Their determination and courage shines through even when things look bleak. I especially recommend Maggie's Door to readers with an Irish heritage, as it shows the extreme hardship that people went through just to survive and to improve their family's future.

2nd Review by J. A. Kaszuba Locke:

Patricia Reilly Giff's Maggie's Door is narrated by Nory Ryan and Sean Red Mallon, resuming (from Nory Ryan's Song) the story of their struggle from Maidin Bay, Ireland, on foot to reach Galway, and sail from there to Brooklyn, New York, where Maggie Ryan and her husband have settled and await their arrival. Through the many challenges that face her, Nory thinks to herself, 'We will dance on the cliffs of Brooklyn.'

Giff gives a powerful voice to the hardships, and obstacles that the Irish faced in the 1800s, as she flawlessly weaves her tapestry from two narrations. In 1845, a fungus destroyed the potato crop, resulting in famine that forced a huge migration of survivors. The author's ancestors were among the three million people who left their homeland. Hopes to reach 'the docks of New York' kept them alive, while they never forgot what they left behind. You will not walk away from Maggie's Door unmoved nor untouched.

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