Author: Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Genre: Junior Nonfiction
Read For: Personal Education
My Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
The Irish Potato Famine has long interested me, and recently I've really been wanting to know more about it. Though I have a more in-depth book on my wishlist, I thought that a good Junior Nonfiction book might whet my appetite a little.
When I read Junior Nonfiction, I am hoping for a quick, engaging overview of the topic, as well as certain other things that would make it easy to recommend to kids. One of those things is pictures. I think that a good assortment of good pictures goes far in making the topic interesting and memorable. Be they illustrated or photographed, ideally there will be enough to prevent boredom, and of high enough quality that they are not merely entertaining, but educational as well. Another thing I think is important is a simple, logical organization of topics, written in succinct, effective language. If the book is not organized well, in thoughts and typesetting, it is much more difficult to understand and remember.
Black Potatoes certainly does a great job in these areas. There are many illustrations, similar to the one on the cover, that come directly from the period and location discussed--gathered from newspapers, libraries, and personal collections. The author does a good job at relating the information, and the horrible statistics, in a clear manner, weaving personal stories into the facts. She relates what other people and governments did (and did not do) to help, and seems to remain as unbiased as possible. During the five years discussed in the book, one million Irish people died from starvation and disease and two million more emigrated. Yet despite all the sad stories this book must tell, it also tells one of hope and courage.
One of the saddest things about the Famine years is that for each horrible story, there is always another more tragic and dreadful. Yet for every tragic story, you will also meet people who held on to hope, who committed heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and who fought to survive and to preserve their dignity.