Patricia Reilly Giff,
Maggie's Door
(Wendy Lamb/Random House, 2003)

Maggie's Door is the story of the Ryan family's desperate emigration from Ireland to America during the time of the worst potato famine in that country's history.

As the Ryans struggle to reach Galway, where a ship will surely be waiting, scenes of horrific starvation and death surround them, threatening to take them victim as well. Young Nory Ryan has been charged by her father to bring the youngest member of their family, little brother Patch, safely through the country and across the ocean. There they will reunite with Maggie and Celia, the eldest sisters, and Da himself, all waiting in promising New York City.

Though Nory is young, she is strong. Though she is starving, she is determined. And because there is no one else to rely upon, she will ensure Patch's safe delivery to America.

Maggie's Door is the companion novel to Nory Ryan's Song, published in 2000. Though it would be interesting to have a background for this family, the novel stands alone and is easily read with no other reference.

The trials of the characters in the story make an excellent introduction to young readers of a time that stands apart in history. The great suffering of the Irish is contrasted with the belief that relief and all that is good and necessary could be found in America. Although that promise was not fulfilled for all who emigrated, many people from around the world found a new beginning upon those shores.

This is just one of those stories, and should give children a lot to think about regarding their own family's history as well.

- Rambles
written by Katie Knapp
published 12 June 2004

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