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Under the Hawthorn Tree

Under the Hawthorn Tree

Children of the Famine

Written by Marita Conlon-McKenna, Illustrated by Donald Teskey, Cover illustration by PJ Lynch

The first book in the famine trilogy
Under the Hawthorn Tree is Ireland's top selling children's book and a classic for young readers worldwide. Set during the Irish famine, it follows three children as they travel across the country to find their family.


Reading Association of Ireland - Premier Award (1991) - 1991

- Winner


International Reading Association Award - 1991

- Winner


Reading Association of Ireland Award - 1991

- Winner

Osterreichischer Kinder- und Jugendbuchpreis (1993) - 1993

- Short-listed

Paperback: €9.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Size:196x130 mm
ISBN: 9780862782061

E-Book (ePub): €5.99
Also available as an E-Book (ePub)
ISBN: 9781847176004

The first book in the famine trilogy

Under the Hawthorn Tree is Ireland's top selling children's book and a classic for young readers worldwide.

Ireland in the 1840s is devastated by famine. When tragedy strikes their family, Eily, Michael and Peggy are left to fend for themselves. Starving and in danger of the dreaded workhouse, they escape. Their one hope is to find the great aunts they have heard about in their mother's stories. With tremendous courage they set out on a journey that will test every reserve of strength, love and loyalty they possess.

Also available on DVD.

Marita Conlon-McKenna

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 RTÉ 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 RTÉ 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.

In her most recent bestselling novel for adults, The Hungry Road, Marita has returned to the subject of the Irish famine.

PJ Lynch

P. J. Lynch is the current Laureate na nÓg, Ireland’s Children’s Laureate. He has worked as a book illustrator since the 1980s. Millions of his books have been sold around the world and he has won many awards. His next book will be “Patrick and the President” written by Ryan Tubridy. In recent years PJ has designed posters for Opera Ireland and the Abbey Theatre as well as several sets of stamps for An Post. As well as illustrating books he has painted some very large murals including two on the theme of Gulliver’s Travels for the Cavan County Library, and he has recently designed Europe’s largest mosaic for the Marian Shrine in Knock, Co Mayo. It was unveiled in February 2016.

After many years illustrating other writers’ stories PJ finally published his own story, “The Boy Who Fell Off The Mayflower” in 2015, and his next book will be “Patrick and the President” written by the broadcaster Ryan Tubridy. PJ lives in Dublin with his wife Barbara and their three children, Ben, Sam and Evie.

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

An Irish classic … much loved …. the classic famine story by one of our best loved children’s authors Sarah Webb

Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show

I love giving books as gifts. I have given a lot of young children Marita Conlon-McKenna’s Under the Hawthorn Tree. It’s a classic and I think one all kids should read

Sinead Moriarty, Sunday Independent

Teaching Resources: free to view and download

  • Download RBFS: Teaching ideas for fifth class from O'Brien Reading Programme

  • Download Teaching Guides: Drama ideas based on the novel, by Helen Hallissey. Courtesy InTouch.

  • Download Teaching Guides: Teaching guide to the novel and film: episode 2 (179 kb)

  • Download Teaching Guides: Teaching guide to the novel and film: episode 3 (215 kb)

  • Download Teaching Guides: Teaching guide to the novel and film: episode 4 (315 kb)

  • Download Teaching Guides: Teaching guide to the novel and film: introduction and episode 1 (349 kb)

  • Download Teaching Guides: Teaching guide to the novel by Irene Barber

Rights Held: World, all languages
Rights Sold: Albanian, Arabic, China, Chinese, Danish, England, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Slovenia, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, United States, World

Also by Marita Conlon-McKenna:

Wildflower Girl
No Goodbye
The Blue Horse
Faoin Sceach Gheal
In Deep Dark Wood
Fields of Home

Go to author page...

Also by Donald Teskey:

The Lough Neagh Monster
The Blue Horse
The Leprechaun Who Wished He Wasn't
Faoin Sceach Gheal
Fields of Home
The Táin

Go to author page...

Also by PJ Lynch:

Fields of Home
Wildflower Girl

Go to author page...

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