A Review of "Megan's Year: An Irish Traveler's Story" in The Children's Bookshelf
The Children's Bookshelf (Oct 2011)
MEGAN’S YEAR: An Irish Traveler’s Story, authored by master writer Gloria Whelan and illustrated by Beth Peck, looks at the complicated life of approximately 25,000 members of the Irish Travelers who live half the year on the open road in a caravan and the other half in a stationary house called a “tigin” in a cramped area of Dublin.
Whelan’s narrator, 10 year-old Megan Brady, greatly prefers life on the road. Beth Peck’s illustrations celebrate Megan’s joy as she explores the countryside, picks raspberries, digs for potatoes and goes swimming while her Daddy helps farmers cultivate fields, and dig turf in exchange for a place to park the caravan and a chance to earn a little money. But by late fall with work opportunities very meager Megan with her family must head for the city, move into crowded housing and enroll in school.
Megan and her siblings attend St John’s National School where they are seen as different due to their lifestyle and culture. Megan is the target of name calling. Quoting from the book:" In the hall Bridget gives me a push and calls me a stupid tinker. She laughs at me because my uniform is last year’s and too short. I call Bridget a name in Gammon. Sister Joseph frowns but she doesn’t know what I’ve said."
Whelan skillfully integrates facts about the Irish Travelers into the narrative including their secret language of Gammon, their difficulty of finding a place to park their caravans due to the loss of open land and of finding farm jobs as machines take over the work. The text elegantly compares Megan’s life as a Traveler to the life of a swallow——-living in one place during the summer and in another place in the winter.
MEGAN’S YEAR: An Irish Traveler’s Story, written by Gloria Whelan and illustrated by Beth Peck, is a gentle telling of the story of a community at risk and is ideal for children 7-10 years of age (Sleeping Bear Press, 2011).
—Sue Ann Martin