Last of the Name

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Industrial Age

Last of the Name
Author: Parry, Rosanne
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Time Period: Industrial Age
Time Frame: 1863
Geographic Area: North America
Country: United States
Topics: American Civil War, Irish Immigration, NYC Draft Riots
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age: Upper Middle Grade, Young Adult
Format: Chapter Book
Published: 2019

American History > Industrial Age > American Civil War

Twelve-year-old Danny O'Carolan and his sister, Kathleen, arrive in New York City in 1863, at the height of the Civil War. Kathleen finds a job in domestic service for herself and Danny, hoping to keep Danny from being drafted into the US Army as a drummer boy. As he explores the city and shares his talent for Irish dancing, Danny discovers the vast variety of New York's neighborhoods. With the threat of the draft pitting Irish immigrants against the free Black population, stoking tensions between the rich and the poor, and threatening the life Danny hopes to build, can he find a safe place to call home?

Emily's Review

This book is such a gem. I am always on the lookout for different perspectives on overdone subjects, so I was excited to find a story set during the Civil War that was told from the perspective of Irish immigrants.

In this story we follow siblings, Daniel and Kathleen as they cross the ocean to escape Ireland for a life of freedom in America. But coming to the United States in 1863, things don't seem that much different than they were back at home. They are leaving behind tragedy and starvation in Ireland, only to find prejudice and war in America. Desperate to stay together, Kathleen convinces her younger brother to dress like a girl so they can both get a job in service to a wealthy family.

I adored Danny as a character - he has such a great voice and his observations are so smart and innocent. And Kathleen is such a strong female character. I loved her backbone - she knew what she wanted and stood up for herself and her brother. The sibling relationship is at the heart of the story and I found their interactions to be realistic and endearing. I also love the way the author included Irish music and dance in the story. Danny is a talented singer and dancer, but in Ireland, he is forbidden to sing Irish songs or dance Irish dances. When he realizes that isn't the case in America, he relishes this new freedom. This story made me want to listen to Irish music while I read!

The novel revolves around the events leading up to and immediately after the New York City Draft Riots - an event I hadn't read about before. This was a great introduction to it and left me wanting to know more.

The story touches on the terrible hardships of the Irish in Ireland under British rule, as well as the terror in the city during the draft riots but from the perspective of a child, keeping it from being too overwhelming for a child to read.

I also really appreciated the diversity of perspectives in this story - we see the Irish from our protagonist, but we also meet Italian immigrants, Jewish immigrants, and African Americans - giving a good picture of New York City in the mid-1800s.

I'm so glad I picked up this book - it is a wonderful addition to any Civil War unit.

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