In this addition to the Tales of the World series, 10-year-old Megan and her family spend the summers crisscrossing Ireland in their caravan. Megan loves never knowing what her family will discover next and meeting other Travelers along the way, though she sometimes feels that her life is "too mixed up." When the winter comes, her family heads back to Dublin, where they live in a cramped "tigin" cottage. At school, Megan is harassed by other students for her family's nomadic lifestyle, but although her brothers want to stay in the city when they grow up, she dreams of being a Traveler for the rest of her life. Peck's (A Nickel, a Trolley, a Treasure House) loose, smudgy paintings convey the joy and freedom of Megan's family's time on the road, as well as their struggles to maintain dignity while impoverished in a city "where there's nothing to do that doesn't cost money." Whelan (The Listeners) offers a thought-provoking account of a treasured yet challenging way of life, and the difficulties inherent in reconciling two very different personal identities. Ages 6�10. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Peg Glisson
Megan's family belongs to the Irish Travelers, descended from the tinkers of long ago. She spends summers traveling with them from town to town, enjoying days outdoors and sleeping in their caravan at night, as her father seeks odd jobs and farm work. Winters are spent crammed into government housing in Dublin, where she attends school and where there is a "building where you ride an elevator to an office and they give you money for food." Her parents have different preferences for their lifestyle than Megan's older siblings who are leaning toward a more settled life. Megan, like her father, loves life on the road and struggles with the confines of the city, the bullying and teasing of her classmates, and the tight quarters in which they must live. Her heart lifts as the sparrows return and the buds are forming on the treesher feet may be in Dublin, but her heart hurries "down a road toward summer" where "what's ahead could be anything." Whelan introduces readers to a little known, and disappearing, way of life. She works much information into the text, yet her language is often lyrical. Some words of Gammon, the Traveler's secret language, are incorporated into the text and there is a small glossary in the back. Peck's blurred paintings convey the beauty of the Irish landscape and the tightness of the city. Her faces, however, are nondescript, with disproportionate features. Teachers will find this book valuable for multicultural units; children will be intrigued by this dual way of life. Reviewer: Peg Glisson
The road less traveled makes for a difficult path for an itinerant family.
Ten-year-old Megan and her relatives move their caravan as work demands. Options to feed their boisterous clan turn scarce with the end of summer, and these Irish Travelers sacrifice freedom for the restrictions—but opportunities—Dublin provides. Those outside of their close-knit society (negatively referred to as "buffers," who in turn refer to the Travelers as "tinkers") bully Megan, though she receives compassion from her teacher, Sister Joseph. Conflict builds slightly as the older siblings question whether to embrace or reject their familiar way of life. The text varies in effectiveness; lengthy paragraphs at times plod through this tumultuous year. Striking reflections, however, yield startling insights into their lives: "If we're hungry there's a building where you ride an elevator to an office and they give you money for food." Traditional slang scattered within the narration separates Megan's experience from those in mainstream culture. Peck's lush, rural landscapes prove most effective. Too often, characters' lids cover their eyes, and little is done to paint individual personalities. The brief author's note and glossary hints at the historical strife surrounding this disenfranchised community.
This portrayal of a rarely visited group enjoys mixed success. (Picture book. 7-10)