If you are looking for a good historical fiction novel, set in Ireland, to use during the month of March, Nory Ryan’s Song, by Patricia Reilly Giff is a great choice. This is the story of Nory Ryan, a 12 year old girl who lives through the 1845 Irish Potato Famine.
With her father and older sister away from home when a potato disease strikes the Irish potato crop, Nory must be the one to find food to eat, keep shelter overhead, and look after loved ones.
As an Irish American, I am embarrassed to admit I knew very little about what actually happened during the potato famine of 1845 in Ireland until I read this book. I was shocked to learn about Great Britain’s role in what is now considered genocide. Before reading this book, to build background knowledge about the time period, I provided my students with nonfiction texts such as, The Great Famine of 1845 (taken from History Learning Site.
Even though the genre of this book is historical fiction, I have my literacy students focus on analyzing elements that I would typically teach while reading a memoir (the main character's experiences: highs and lows, and the main character's strengths and weaknesses). It is a great book for working on character analysis.
Download the Nory Ryan's Song Graphic Organizer and have your students take notes while reading. Note-taking is a simple writing activity that encourages students to reflect on the main ideas, themes, and character traits and more!