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Nory Ryan's Song Hardcover – September 12, 2000

4.4 out of 5 stars 89 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Nory Ryan's Song Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Life is hard for poor Irish potato farmers, but 12-year-old Nory Ryan and her family have always scraped by... until one morning, Nory wakes to the foul, rotting smell of diseased potatoes dying in the fields. And just like that, all their hopes for the harvest--for this year and next--are dashed. Hunger sets in quickly. The beaches are stripped of edible seaweed, the shore is emptied of fish, desperate souls even chew on grass for the nourishment. As her community falls apart, Nory scrambles to find food for her family. Meanwhile, the specter of America lurks, where, the word is, no one is ever hungry, and horses carry milk in huge cans down cobblestone streets.

As Patricia Reilly Giff writes in her note to the reader, the Great Hunger of 1845 to 1852 was a tragic time for the Irish. Enough food to feed double the population was sent out across the sea, while an indifferent government ignored the starving masses. More than one million of the eight million people in Ireland died. Nory Ryan's Song, a fictionalized account based on this terrible era in history, describes the heroic struggles of one girl who refuses to give in to hunger, exhaustion, and hopeless circumstances. Young readers may have heard of the Irish Potato Famine, but they won't truly understand it until they meet Nory. Giff is the author of many beloved books for children, including the Newbery Honor Book Lily's Crossing and the Polk Street School series. (Ages 9 to 12) --Emilie Coulter

From 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. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 600L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 148 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers; First Printing edition (September 12, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 043931674X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385321419
  • ASIN: 0385321414
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,106,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rebecca Herman HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Twelve-year-old Nory Ryan and her family have always lived a meager life in the Irish countryside, but they have always managed to make ends meet. But now it's 1845, and a terrible blight is attacking the potato crops, the main source of food for the Irish peasants. And not only are the in danger of starvation, but their English landlord is threatening to turn them off the land that should be theirs if they don't pay the rent soon. But Nory is brave and resourceful, and she comes up with ways to stretch their food, pay the rent, and keep herself and her family and friends alive. But as time goes by, things get harder. Nory dreams of a better live. Can she find what it take to survive until the day she can make her dreams come true? This was a beautifully written historical novel about an ordinary girl's immense courage and resourcefullness during a tragic and difficult time in history. Highly reccomended to historical fiction fans.
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Format: Paperback
It seems uniquely challenging. The idea of making a readable children's book out of something so bleak and depressing as the Irish Potato Famine. Yet as an author, Giff has never shied away from difficult subjects. Whether you're following the trials of a 1870 German immigrant to Brooklyn in "The House of Tailors", or a 1940's Hungarian escapee in "Lily's Crossing", Giff has become one of those go-to historical fiction writers. With an emphasis on immigration, emigration, and forced transplantation, her books strain to find a balance between absolute historical accuracy and something your ten-year-old would actually (willingly) pick up on their own. Personally, when I was ten years of age I wouldn't have picked up "Nory Ryan's Song" for all the gold in King Solomon's mines. For those children that have strong stomachs and even stronger nerves, however, the book is a distinctly well-written explanation of why many of us in America sport Irish-American heritage.

Yeah, Nory's got a pretty nice life. True, her mother's dead and her father's away at sea to fish and pay the family's bills. Still, she has her two older sisters, her grandfather, her little brother Patch, and her best friend Sean to keep her company. And then one day she detects an odd smell in the air.... And even odder screams of panic from over the hills. The smell, as it turns out, is that of potatoes dying of a particularly nasty blight. The screams are the people who realize that death is staring them in the face. Before she knows it, Nory's potato patch is infested as well and the family is left with zero food to get by on. The English lord, Cunningham, who owns the land isn't about to show any mercy to his Irish tenants, and people begin to grow more and more desperate as he takes their lifestock for rent.
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Format: Audio Cassette
I am a 13 year old who does not enjoy reading very much and would rather be watching MTV instead.But when I first picked up this book I could not put it down I read it in about 2 days. Patricia Reilly Giff is my new favorite author!It is about a girl and her family during the potato famine in Irealand. As she is trying to save her self by eating anything she can find from bird eggs to grass she is also struggling to save her friends and family.Does she come through?You will have to find out! : )I did and I loved it!
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A Kid's Review on March 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Recently, I read the novel, Nory Ryan's Song, by Patricia Reilly Giff. Personally, I rated this book 5 stars because it showed how life really was for some people. She shows how life was during the depression in Ireland. She also uses impecable description. She shows the setting and charactors in a clear and well detailed way. The main charactor in the book was easy to relate to. Even I could relate to her. Nory is Irish, I am Irish. Nory loves potatoes, I LOVE potatoes. I would recommend this to 13+ and people who like realistic fiction. This book has a little bit of Gaelic in it so it may be difficult for younger children. The story and plot are believable and it's about something that happened in real life with fictional charactors. This book is enjoyable and I would recommend this book and author in the future!
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Format: Hardcover
Nory Ryan's Song portrays the near hopelessness faced by those who suffered through the potato blight of the mid-1800s in Ireland. Starvation and desperation are vividly described through the perspective of twelve-year-old Nory as she struggles to survive and provide for her loved ones. The music within her allows her to connect with a woman whom she initially fears, but who is able to provide Nory with sustenance and ultimately with a gift of knowledge that will allow her to heal others. The author's use of language is notable: Giff creates an "Irish lilt" in her text that provides a strong sense of place and authenticity to this powerful and moving story.
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Format: Paperback
Nory is a typical twelve-year-old girl living in Ireland in the mid-1800s. Her mother died giving birth to her little brother, so she and her two older sisters and grandfather take care of each other while her father leaves on long fishing trips to earn their rent money. The English lord who owns their land, though, would rather they couldn't pay their rent. Then he would be free to destroy their home and use that land for his sheep to graze.

Things have gone reasonably well for awhile, though, and Nory's family has been able to pay their rent and live mostly off of the potatoes that are planted in their yard. Nory's oldest sister is saving up money to marry a neighbor. Then one of their other neighbors falls too far behind on rent and can't stop the lord from destroying her home. Nory's sister is worried, and she and her fiance use their money to take a ship to the United States, to try to find a better life there.

After Nory's sister leaves, things get even worse. Her father is taking much longer to return from fishing than he usually does, and the lord has come to their home to warn them about not paying their rent. Then all of the potatoes in their yard and the yards of their neighbors turn black and give off a horrible smell. There is no way they can be eaten, but the people have no other food. Will Nory and her family be able to survive?

I liked the history behind this book. It was interesting to read what life was like in Ireland, and to see what people may have been thinking when the potato famine hit. I liked the character of Anna. She was strong and sympathetic although she must have been suffering herself.

I didn't like the idea that everyone thought life in America would be so much better than life in Ireland. I know my history, and know that things weren't much better for the Irish immigrants in America.
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