cover image KATIE'S WISH


Barbara Shook Hazen, , illus. by Emily Arnold McCully. . Dial, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2478-5

Hazen (The Knight Who Was Afraid of the Dark) humanizes a pivotal moment in Irish history in this picture-book look at Ireland's potato famine (1845–1850). Although her grandparents and other relatives provide good care for Katie, she longs for her mother, who has died, and her father, who has migrated to America, where Katie hopes to join him. And Katie wishes there were more to eat than plain boiled potatoes: "I wish they'd go away," she mutters at Sunday dinner. Katie's "wish" seems cruelly granted when the potatoes in all Ireland begin to rot and people begin to starve and contract serious diseases. Certain that her remarks caused the famine, Katie's guilt weighs heavily, even when she learns she is finally to take passage to America and her father. Da's comforting actions and words upon her arrival help Katie heal. Hazen's ambitious tale skillfully envelops key historical elements and Irish phrases, but a few abrupt jumps and unexplained plot points disrupt an otherwise smooth narrative flow. While McCully's (Mirette on the High Wire) Katie, freckled and red-haired, doesn't always look the same from page to page, the mottled watercolor depictions of the rugged Irish countryside and literal huddled masses aboard ship will transport readers to another time and place. Ages 5-up. (Sept.)