cover image A Slip of a Girl

A Slip of a Girl

Patricia Reilly Giff. Holiday House, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8234-3955-3

Giff loosely based the tenacious heroine of this profoundly moving novel on her great-grandmother, who was raised in the town in Ireland where the Drumlish Land War of 1881 took place. In taut free verse, the author writes in the voice of fiercely patriotic Anna Mallon, whose family is torn apart as tension mounts between English landlords and Irish tenants, who are forcibly evicted after failing to pay unfairly escalating rents. After three of Anna’s siblings depart in search of a better life in Brooklyn, her frail mother dies hours after beseeching Anna to read and to keep her baby sister Nuala safe. The girl honors both requests; she learns to read from the local schoolmaster and escapes, with Nuala in her arms, after English bailiffs arrest her for insubordination. Anna’s simultaneous desperation and determination are palpable as she carries Nuala for days, barefoot, cold, and near starvation, to reach the safe home of an elderly aunt. Archival photos illuminate the loss and injustice inflicted on the Irish, and Giff (Lily’s Crossing) brings Anna’s story to a triumphant close. Ages 10–14. [em](Aug.) [/em]