Written by Patricia Reilly Giff
Published by Wendy Lamb Books
Review by Gilliana Ampano
Patricia Reilly Giff is the author of many beloved books for children. Among her notable titles are The Gift of the Pirate Queen and Lily’s Crossing. Maggie’s Door is the sequel to Giff’s much loved Nory Ryan’s Song.
Giff has steeped herself in Irish history and she shares the wealth of her knowledge here. The potato famine that caused the worst hunger Ireland had ever known in 1845 is the backdrop for this well-told story. Maggie’s Door is the story of Nory Ryan’s journey from Ireland to America. We also hear about the journey from Nory’s neighbor Sean Mallon. Both young people are headed to the same place: Nory’s sister Maggie in Brooklyn, New York. The journey on the ship is difficult, even harrowing at times. The conditions were so dangerous that many of the ships leaving Ireland for the U.S. were called coffin ships. Despite the hardships Nory and Sean are determined to reach Maggie’s door.
This is a good story to show children how perseverence through difficult times can get you where you want to go. Though it is a book intended for children, parents will enjoy reading it to their children as much for themselves as for their children. The dialogue has a true Irish flavor and it flows as you read it aloud. Giff’s language is fluid and the historical details are authentic. Whether you are of Irish ancestry or not you will find learning about the history of Irish Americans fascinating because it echoes the experiences of other immigrants to America.
This is a good story to read to children eight or older. If you’re going to give this book to your children to read for themselves I would recommend this as a fifth or sixth grade level book, though my 7th grader read it and then he read Nory Ryan’s Song because he loved Maggie’s Door so much.
Gilliana Ampano is a writer and teacher originally from Rome, Italy. She is now living in New York with her husband and three sons. In her spare time, she is writing an historical novel set in Renaissance Florence.