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Under the Hawthorn Tree


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About the Author

Born in Dublin in 1956 and brought up in Goatstown, Marita went to school at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Mount Anville, later working in the family business, the bank, and a travel agency. She has four children with her husband James, and they live in the Stillorgan area of Dublin. Marita was always fascinated by the Famine period in Irish history and read everything available on the subject. When she heard a radio report of an unmarked children's grave from the Famine period being found under a hawthorn tree, she decided to write her first book, Under the Hawthorn Tree. Published in May 1990, the book was an immediate success and become a classic. It has been translated into over a dozen languages, including Arabic, Bahasa, French, Dutch, German, Swedish, Italian, Japanese and Irish. The book has been read on RTE Radio and is very popular in schools, both with teachers and pupils. It has been made a supplementary curriculum reader in many schools and is also used by schools in Northern Ireland for EMU (Education through Mutual Understanding) projects. It was also filmed by Young Irish Film Makers, in association with RTE and Channel 4. This is available as a DVD. Marita has written more books for children which were also very well received. The Blue Horse reached No. 1 on the Bestseller List and won the BISTO BOOK OF THE YEAR Award. No Goodbye, which tells of the heartbreak of a young family when their mother leaves home, was recommended by Book Trust in their guide for One Parent Families. Safe Harbour is the story of two English children evacuated from London during World War ll to live with their grandfather in Greystones, Co Wicklow and was shortlisted for the BISTO Book of the Year Award. A Girl Called Blue follows the life of an orphan, trying to find who she really is in a cold and strict orphanage. Marita has also explored the world of fantasy with her book In Deep Dark Wood. Marita has won several awards, including the International Reading Association Award, the Osterreichischer Kinder und Jugendbuchpreis, the Reading Association of Ireland Award and the Bisto Book of the Year Award.


Gr 4-6-- The horrors of the potato famine in Ireland vividly leap from the pages of this first novel. The O'Driscolls are a poor family whose lives depend on the potato crop. When it fails, they are doomed. The father has left to find work elsewhere, and when he does not return, Mrs. O'Driscoll goes to find him, leaving feisty Eily, the oldest, in charge of her two younger siblings. She also does not return, forcing the children to set out to find two great-aunts about whom they've heard stories; their alternative is going to the workhouse. At this point, the story becomes one of resourceful and determined children seeking to stay together in the hope of being reunited with the rest of their family. The tale is episodic, but should sustain the interest of its target audience. The characters are largely two-dimensional and are sometimes mere vehicles to help tell the history of the period. The book succeeds on this level, and readers are left with a glimmer of hope as the children reach their elderly aunts, but with their future still a mystery. A worthwhile addition. --Renee Steinberg, Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ

My favourite book as a child was Under The Hawthorn Tree by Marita Condon-McKenna. At 9 yrs old, I was drawn into the story of three children's struggle to survive during the Irish Famine. Now I'm reading it with my daughter & the journey continues

-- Cecelia Ahern

beloved the world over

-- The Herald

vividly brings history to life for its readers ... a hugely involving tale

-- Mad About Books

her books never shy away from difficult issues, gripping you from the very opening chapter

-- The Looking Glass

The Children of the Famine trilogy ... continues to not only educate Irish children about their history, but enable people to truly connect with what happened

-- The Looking Glass

A great survival saga

-- The Irish Independent

makes a whole part of our history come alive, while it still remains a thrilling adventure tale.

-- RTE Guide

A sublime story ... I don't know any child who will not find this book enthralling.

-- The Irish Times

... beautiful and moving ... historically true and fictionally vivid.

-- The Sunday Times

The Great Irish Famine of the 1840s has received more fictional treatment than almost any other period in Irish historical children's books. Writing about the Famine posed new challenges to writers for children. The traditional passivity linked to ideas about famine would need to be overcome by some kind of action. The intense and horrible suffering and disease would need to be confronted truthfully but without lurid sensationalism. Some sense of an ending would need to be provided. In Under the Hawthorn Tree, Marita Conlon-McKenna confronted these problems with honesty and simplicity: the plight of three children becomes a kind of pilgrimage. The search for survival is not merely that, but also a search to sustain family loyalty and preserve memory.

-- The Big Guide to Irish Children's Books

Brings the story of the Irish Famine thrillingly alive.

-- The Irish Post

makes a whole part of our history come alive, while it still remains a thrilling adventure tale.

-- RTE Guide * RTE Guide *

the powerful story of the survival of three children, alone, and against the odds.

-- Publishing News

Marita Conlon-Mckenna handles this appalling event in Irish history sensitively but never compromising the truth of hardship and human suffering.

-- Jane Murphy -

(A) vivid picture of the Famine era ... fascinating and terrifying

-- Evening Echo

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