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Children's LiteratureKathleen Murphy, her younger sisters, her Mam, and her Da live in a grim and crowded tenement in Dublin. Her father is in and out of jobs, and poverty is a close companion to the family. When we meet the lively, red-haired Kathleen, she is getting herself and her three younger sisters ready for school and making rather a mess of the job. In fact, she makes such a mess of it that Mother Rosario asks to see Kathleen's mother for a talk. Kathleen is horrified; after all, we all know that no good can come of such a thing. However, in this instance the parent-teacher talk proves to be the exception to the rule. Once Mother Rosario is satisfied that all is well in the Murphy household, she suggests that Kathleen take Irish dancing lessons. The nun feels that Kathleen is musically inclined and should take advantage of her gift. It isn't long before they all see that Mother Rosario is quite right. Kathleen seems to fly as she dances, and she finds that she has never been happier. However, Kathleen soon finds that her family's lack of means is going to be a problem, for there is to be a dancing competition in the offing and she has to have a special outfit to wear. How on earth can her parents afford to pay for a special dancing dress and all that goes with it when they can barely afford the basic necessities? Written with great poignancy and with a true understanding of the people and the times, this is an exceptional book. We are carried deep into the lives of the people who lived in the poorer parts of Dublin in the 1930s. In the back of the book the reader will find an excellent section entitled "Then and Now: A girl's life," which describes Ireland at the time of the story and what life islike in Ireland in the present day. There is also a glossary of words and a very interesting author's note in which the author tells us a bit about how she related to the times about which she wrote. 2003, Pleasant Company, Ages 10 to 12.
— Marya Jansen-Gruber