St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Between 1845 and 1851, thousands upon thousands of Irish men, women, and children died when the potato crop failed. A million more left Ireland and came to America to start their lives over. Fergus and his parents were just one of the many families that made the long uncomfortable journey across the Atlantic. Before he left his home Fergus cut off a branch from a blackthorn tree. This he whittled into a shillelagh, a walking stick. Within this shillelagh lies the story of Fergus's family. Every St. Patrick's day the story of their flight from Ireland is told. Fergus grows up and gives the shillelagh to his son Declan. In turn, Declan gives the shillelagh to his son Emmet and so it goes, on through the generations. With each passing generation we see the family gain a better place in life until Ryan becomes the owner of the shillelagh. Ryan has made his family very proud because he went to college. There is one thing he has failed to do though, and it is daughter Kayleigh who reminds him. She finds the shillelagh in a closet and asks him about it. Ryan regrets being too busy "worrying about tomorrow I forgot to tell you our family's story of yesterday." So, they get Grandpa to tell them the story of the shillelagh on St. Patrick's Day. In this beautiful book, Janet Nolan has found a wonderful way to tell the story of her family and its successes through the story of the shillelagh. 2002, Albert Whitman,
— Marya Jansen-Gruber
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-Fergus and his family immigrate to the U.S. during the potato famine. On his last night home, the boy cuts a branch from his favorite blackthorn tree in order to "take a piece of Ireland with him on his journey across the ocean." During the voyage, he whittles this branch into a shillelagh, and on each St. Patrick's Day, he recounts his family's journey from their homeland to America. After many years, he passes the shillelagh and its story on to his son Declan, who in turn passes it on to his son, Emmet. The heirloom makes its way to succeeding generations until Ryan puts it in a closet when he moves to a new house. Years later, his daughter discovers it and, at her father's urging, takes it to her Grandpa Garrett in order to learn its history. He passes the object on to her, saying, "A good story never has to end as long as someone remembers to keep telling it." Though not as spare and poetic as Patricia Polacco's The Keeping Quilt (S & S, 1988), this account provides just enough historical context for each generation to be interesting. Stahl's realistic, acrylic illustrations adeptly convey the passage of time for this engaging family. A nice introduction to Irish immigration and the concepts of family traditions and heritage.-Piper L. Nyman, Fairfield/Suisun Community Library, Fairfield, CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807573440
  • Publisher: Whitman, Albert & Company
  • Publication date: 10/28/2002
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    The gift of family

    This book is beautifully illustrated and wonderfully written. The story encourages readers to think about where their family origins might be and to consider the history of their own ancestors. The story is inclusive of both male and female family members and is appropriate for boys and girls. I believe children should have their own libraries and this book is a welcome and valuable piece in the grandkids library at Nana's.

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