BREDA’S ISLAND, by Jessie Ann Foley, Quill Tree Books, July 12, 2022, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
A girl sets out to discover the past after being exiled to her grandfather’s remote Ireland farm in Jessie Ann Foley’s Breda’s Island.
After Breda Moriarity gets caught stealing one too many times, Breda’s mom sends her to Ireland, a place she has never been, to live with the grandfather she has never met.
While Breda doesn’t want to be in this strange land, she finally gets to meet Granda, her mom’s father. He’s a grumpy farmer who is also a seanchaí, a traditional Gaelic storyteller. But the most important story is the one nobody will talk about: what happened to her absent father. If nothing else this summer, Breda is determined to figure out the truth about her family’s history — and herself. —Synopsis provided by Quill Tree Books
Breda’s Island is one of those books that you may not be completely sure about when you pick it up, but are quickly convinced of its excellence.
Author Jessie Ann Foley’s prose is warm, comforting and all-encompassing. She deftly sets the scene, transporting readers to a land of expansive green where residents are at once immediately welcoming but know how to keep a grudge.
At the center of the story is Breda, a girl who is begging for attention, but gets sent away for her actions. Breda’s mother fled to the US when she was pregnant, cutting off all ties with her father. Breda and her mother used to be as close as can be, but when her mom opens a new business, all her focus turns to that.
Breda’s not really a “bad girl,” and she quickly finds her footing in Ireland, and, later, with her grandfather. There are years of bad will built up in Breda’s family — bad will that she’s determined to figure out. Breda’s curiosity about the past pushes her forward and changes her family forever.
Breda is a complicated character, but one that you want to root for. Even more complicated are her mother and Granda. This complicated relationship plays out against a beautiful, harsh backdrop that sucks you in.
Breda’s Island is a quiet, driving read that explores relationships, immigration and the meaning of family. It’s an excellent read for children ages 9 and up.
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