Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Rosanne Parry
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
It's 1863, and twelve-year-old Danny O'Carolan and his sister, Kathleen, arrive in New York City, searching for freedom from the starvation and bloodshed they experienced daily in their Irish homeland. But what they find in America is not much different—the Civil War is raging, and the only available jobs for young boys seem to be in the army. Determined not to lose her only remaining family, Kathleen finds a job in domestic service for herself and her…sister. Danny reluctantly pretends to be a girl and works as a laundress, but occasionally sneaks off in his regular boy clothes to share his talent for Irish dancing with people on the street. While tensions escalate between the Irish and free black populations about the Civil War draft, Danny discovers the uniting power of music, heritage, and shared grief as he searches for a safe place to call home.
This is an outstanding work of historical fiction about two siblings in the backdrop of the influx of Irish immigrants during the American Civil War. Danny is a spunky, lovable young boy with a past full of grief and a loyal and loving heart. Kathleen is a devout Catholic, strict and fiery. As much as Danny complains about his sister, the two plainly love each other dearly, and it’s clear each would do anything to protect the other. The characters are lively and authentic, and the love and respect for Irish culture is vivid and practically dances off the page. There is a lot of social commentary in the book, but it doesn’t feel preachy or sugarcoated. This would be a wonderful book to read in the middle-grade classroom, and the story will stay with readers long after they have finished the last page.
*Contains mild violence.