Feed the Children First: Irish Memories of the Great Hunger

Feed the Children First: Irish Memories of the Great Hunger

by Mary E. Lyons
     
 

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The great Irish potato famine -- the Great Hunger -- was one of the worst disasters of the nineteenth century. Within seven years of the onset of a fungus that wiped out Ireland's staple potato crop, more than a quarter of the country's eight million people had either starved to death, died of disease, or emigrated to other lands. Photographs have documented

Overview

The great Irish potato famine -- the Great Hunger -- was one of the worst disasters of the nineteenth century. Within seven years of the onset of a fungus that wiped out Ireland's staple potato crop, more than a quarter of the country's eight million people had either starved to death, died of disease, or emigrated to other lands. Photographs have documented the horrors of other cataclysmic times in history -- slavery and the Holocaust -- but there are no known photographs whatsoever of the Great Hunger.

In Feed the Children First, Mary E. Lyons combines first-person accounts of those who remembered the Great Hunger with artwork that evokes the times and places and voices themselves. The result is a close-up look at incredible suffering, but also a celebration of joy the Irish took in stories and music and helping one another -- all factors that helped them endure.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this somber anecdotal account, of likeliest interest to students, Lyons (Letters from a Slave Girl: The Story of Harriet Jacobs) compiles quotations from Irish citizens on the devastating effects of the potato famine that ravaged Ireland between 1845 and 1852; during those years more than one-quarter of the population either died of starvation or disease, or emigrated, primarily to the U.S. Lyons explains that many of the reminiscences here are abridged from those collected in a book published in Ireland in 1995, which itself drew from the Irish Folklore Commission's efforts in the 1940s to collect stories about the Great Hunger. Given this time frame, some of these observations are first-hand, yet a significant number offer a more remote voice (e.g., "My grandmother told me of her experience when a girl of seventeen in those awful days"). Though the speakers describe affecting, even heartbreaking scenes, many entries use language that, however authentic, young readers are not likely to find compelling: "They lived from hand to mouth. Any failure in the crops meant great privation. Generally there was no money laid by." Period drawings, paintings and a handful of photos serve as illustrations. Ages 9-12. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this somber anecdotal account, of likeliest interest to students, Lyons (Letters from a Slave Girl: The Story of Harriet Jacobs) compiles quotations from Irish citizens on the devastating effects of the potato famine that ravaged Ireland between 1845 and 1852; during those years more than one-quarter of the population either died of starvation or disease, or emigrated, primarily to the U.S. Lyons explains that many of the reminiscences here are abridged from those collected in a book published in Ireland in 1995, which itself drew from the Irish Folklore Commission's efforts in the 1940s to collect stories about the Great Hunger. Given this time frame, some of these observations are first-hand, yet a significant number offer a more remote voice (e.g., "My grandmother told me of her experience when a girl of seventeen in those awful days"). Though the speakers describe affecting, even heartbreaking scenes, many entries use language that, however authentic, young readers are not likely to find compelling: "They lived from hand to mouth. Any failure in the crops meant great privation. Generally there was no money laid by." Period drawings, paintings and a handful of photos serve as illustrations. Ages 9-12. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Following a three page introduction about the causes and effects of the potato famine in Ireland in the 1840s, the reader discovers selected passages from first hand accounts. These are divided into thirteen brief chapters that, taken together, give a broad picture of the time period. Topics such as the search for food, the soup kitchens, starvation, fever and cholera, eviction from the land, and emigration show how the population of this island was depleted. Lyons has selected many heart-wrenching and emotionally difficult passages. These present the harsh realities of the conditions as they were; they are not sensationalized. The drawings and illustrations from mid-nineteenth century and photographs from the 1890s add to the reader's understanding of the conditions and the plight of the Irish in the last half of the nineteenth century. Not as detailed as Susan Campbell Bartoletti's Black Potatoes (2001), this is nevertheless a good source for information about this major historic event. It is a good companion book to Bartoletti. Lyons relates this famine to those around the world today and offers three web sites for information about combating world hunger. The bibliography is comprised of adult titles since so little has been written for children about the Irish famine. 2002, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $17.00. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo AGES: 9 10 11 12
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-This beautifully crafted work combines first-person accounts of Ireland's potato famine, the Great Hunger of 1845-1852, with artwork that recalls those times. Following a concise, informative introduction, the brief selections speak of the people and the land before the Great Hunger, the potato blight and subsequent starvation and illness, the poorhouse, soup kitchens, relief works, eviction, and emigration. They bear witness not only to unbearable suffering, but also to the humanity, dignity, and endurance of a people. Almost all are Irish voices, stories handed down through the families of survivors. Although no photographs of the Great Hunger exist, Irish newspapermen traveling through the country made sketches, and painters later used the theme; full-color reproductions of many are perfectly paired with the selections, as are a few photographs from a later famine. The attractive layout makes effective use of white space. The whole is a fine accompaniment to Susan Campbell Bartoletti's Black Potatoes (Houghton, 2001) and Patricia Reilly Giff's novel, Nory Ryan's Song (Delacorte, 2000), as well as powerful testimony to the suffering of famine victims worldwide.-Diane S. Marton, Arlington County Library, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In the summer and fall of 1845, a plant fungus hit Ireland. In the following seven years, one million people died and another one-and-a-half million people fled the country. It was one of the terrible disasters of the 19th century, the magnitude of which will surprise most readers. This first-person account of the time is derived from oral-history projects such as that conducted in the 1940s by the Irish Folklore Commission, which collected stories from children and grandchildren of survivors. Unlike the photographic record of American slavery and the Holocaust, no known photographs of the Great Hunger exist. Lyons combines oral history with paintings from the period and sketches made by newspapermen who traveled the country in 1847. Young readers may be confused by the inclusion of photographs when the author states in the first section that no photographs of the period exist; however, the photographs she uses date from the end of the 19th century, when the fungus struck again. This attractive volume seems insubstantial on its own but will make a good match with Susan Campbell Bartoletti's recent Black Potatoes (p. 1419), which tells the story of the famine in greater depth. Lyons emphasizes that hunger is still a worldwide problem. In 1995, six million children under the age of five died from lack of nutritious food. As Lyons says, "The Irish famine is worth remembering when hunger organizations ask us to help them feed the children first." This will be a useful volume for library collections on Ireland, immigration, cities, hunger, and the 19th century. (Web sites, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781442482920
Publisher:
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
09/06/2012
Pages:
48
Sales rank:
282,903
Product dimensions:
9.90(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Mary E. Lyons is the author of many books for children and young adults, including Roy Makes a Car, Feed the Children First, Dear Ellen Bee, Letters from a Slave Girl, and Sorrow's Kitchen. In addition to the Golden Kite Award and a Horn Book Fanfare for Letters from a Slave Girl, Lyons was also the recipient of a 2005 Aesop Award for Roy Makes a Car and a Carter G. Woodson Award for Sorrow's Kitchen. A teacher and former librarian, she lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. You can learn more about her at www.lyonsdenbooks.com.

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