Children's Literature - Keri Collins Lewis
When the O'Malley family arrives on the shores of America, they are blissfully unaware of the tests they will undergo as Irish people in the masses of immigrants streaming into New York City in search of a new life. Without a mother, caring for three-year-old Eileen, the three O'Malley sons, and the patriarch of the family falls to Bridget, who is only seventeen. In the squalor of a tenement apartment, Bridget struggles to hold her family together, and every time she feels particularly downtrodden or in need, a dark young man who goes only by the name of Ray magically comes to her rescue. His genius becomes evident when one night, Bridget's father promises his boss, textile tycoon J.P. Wellington, that his daughter is so skilled a seamstress that she can transform dull cloth into beautiful fashions and save his fortune. Ray's skills as a weaver and tailor prevent Bridget from losing her job but land her in an even more difficult predicament. As she discovers her own skills and strengths she is also faced with harsh realities and must decide what she values most. A compelling story of the plight of immigrants in late nineteenth century America, Suzanne Weyn's contribution to the "Once Upon a Time" series balances historical fact with emotional drama to transport readers back in time, where they will discover the stark differences in the lives of the wealthy and the poor and the grueling challenges of immigration. Weyn delicately navigates the conflicting philosophies of hiding their heritage to survive and the desire to remain loyal to their homeland, while demonstrating the benefits of friendships with people of different cultures. While the ending feels somewhat rushed, the fun twiston the original "Rumpelstiltskin" will appeal to teens' romantic sensibilities. Reviewer: Keri Collins Lewis
KLIATT - Donna Scanlon
"Rumplestiltskin" has always been my least favorite fairy tale. The miller's a liar, the daughter's a wimp, and the king has a poor grasp of acceptable courtship behavior. The only person with any semblance of integrity is Rumplestiltskin, the villain of the piece and the only one to keep his end of the bargain. Weyn redeems the tale with her retelling set in 1880. Bridget "Bertie" O'Malley has just arrived in America from Ireland with her father, three brothers, and little sister. Bertie almost immediately encounters Ray Stalls, a strange young man who seems to appear out of nowhere, at one point purchasing some crimson thread for her. Bertie soon finds work sewing in a sweatshop, but loses her job when her father and brothers get into trouble with the law. When her father changes his name from Patrick O'Malley to Rick Miller, he finds a job with a wealthy textile merchant and manages to get a job for Bertie as a seamstress. All is well until her father's gift of gab gets her into trouble, saying that Bertie could construct an elaborate gown overnight from scratch. Once again, it is Ray Stalls to the rescue, but Bertie is soon ensnared in more difficulties in a place where no one can help her. Weyn paints a lively and informative historical portrait of New York City at the brink of the 20th century, capturing the sounds, sights, and scents of the city. The images are evocative and the plot is gripping. In addition, Ray and Bertie are both appealing characters for whom the reader cares instinctively, even when things seem to have gone horribly wrong. Supporting characters are equally well drawn and realistic, from Bertie's impulsive father to the evil "prince" of the textile industry.Libraries that carry the Once Upon a Time series should definitely pick up this title, and for libraries new to the series, this title is a good place to start. Reviewer: Donna Scanlon
Read an Excerpt
Once upon a time, I believe it was 1880 or thereabouts, a young princess set sail from Ireland for a faraway land. Bridget O'Malley never knew she was of royal lineage, due to the reduced circumstances into which she was born.
Foreign conquest had brought endless brutal war to the land, and the devastation of this strife, coupled with the dire poverty it left in its wake, had long ago vanquished the line of magical druidic priestesses and high kings from which Bridget was descended. Though she did not appear the part in her rags and cloddish, peat-covered boots, Bridget O'Malley was, indeed, a princess, and, on her mother's side, a distant but direct descendent of the high king Cormac mac Airt of legend.
For anyone with eyes to see, her lineage should have been clear enough. She carried the brilliant, orange-red crown of vibrant, unruly curls that marked all the royal women of her line. She had the unmistakable crystal blue eyes and the spray of freckles across her high cheekbones.
As Queen Avriel of the Faerie Folk of Eire, I have watched these disowned royals, these noble spirits without crowns, for centuries too numerous to count. A descent in fortune may obscure royal lineage in the eyes of mankind, but not so in the realm of Faerie. Here we know that true royalty remains in the blood regardless of fortune's deviations. And so I watch and record the royal ones, despite the fluctuating cycles of rise and fall that they may experience.
Bridget and Eileen O'Malley were my special concern. After their mother died, Bridget and her wee sister were the last princesses of their line. In my ancient Book of Faerie their histories were recorded with no less attention than when their kinswomen of times past wore the Celtic crowns on their heads.
Bridget and little Eileen's lives were hard from the start, and then the Great Hunger struck. When the potato crop failed, the already-dire starvation, poverty, and crushing serfdom spun wildly out of control. The famine left mothers to die in their thatched cottages, their frozen babes blue in their arms. Between 1846 and 1850 droves of starving, desperate families set sail for distant shores. They went to lands known as Canada, Australia, Great Britain, and a place called America. Hundreds of them left, their meager belongings in tow, not knowing what lay ahead, but praying it would be better than the crushing life they'd had.
When Bridget's mother died, her father, Paddy O'Malley, decided that the time had come to do as so many of his neighbors and kin had already done. He would take his children to America.
And so invisible to all I went too, in my role as faerie historian. A strange fate awaited Princess Bridget. I never would have predicted the turns of events that she encountered, being unfamiliar with the magic of foreign lands as I was at the time. For the mix and tumble of exotic magic she experienced was like nothing I could have imagined; nor could have Bridget.
And thus begins this faerie's tale. Copyright © 2008 by Suzanne Weyn