When Ma dies, Nancy is determined to keep her family together in their Dublin tenement and not in the industrial schools where the Cruelty Men believe they should be. Will she succeed?
In the spring of 1945 a mother dies, leaving four children to fend for themselves in a Dublin tenement.
Nancy, the oldest, lives in dread of the family being split up. The power to send them all to industrial schools such as Artane and Goldenbridge lies with the ‘Cruelty Men’. Their spy, the Pig Farmer, lives next door and holds a long term grudge against the family.
Thankfully Nancy has loyal friends in Summerhill and the Diamond, among them Lilly, her brother Charlie Weaver, a Dublin newsboy, and their ma, Maggie. Through work, Nancy becomes friendly with Karla, a Jewish refugee from Prague.
When Nancy accidentally betrays Charlie to the police, Charlie ends up in Artane industrial school. Desperate to keep her guilty secret and still help her friend, Nancy and Lilly come up with a plan to help Charlie escape on the boat to England.
Just as her life begins to unravel, Karla steps in with a possible solution to Nancy's problems. Will Nancy succeed in keeping the family together? And at what cost?
Happy #WorldBookDay - today I’m reading The Kidds of Summerhill by @aine_treasa - perfect for young fans of Marita Conlon McKenna. Ann is a local historian and her research is always meticulous
Nancy’s first-person narration is a pleasure to read. Murtagh is fast becoming one of our most accomplished historical novelists for children and it will be interesting to see what period of Irish history she tackles next
Amazing, enthralling … This story is captivating… I would give this book 9 ½ / 10 as it is such a well-written book. The reader is able to empathise with the characters in the story and the narrative continues to hold your attention throughout the whole book. Overall, it is a thoroughly enjoyable book to read
Conor, 5th Class, Scoil Ailbhe, Thurles, Co. Tipperary
Incisive descriptive writing evokes a genuine sense of time and place, the squalor and beauty, the details of life. And it is with great depth of feeling and understanding that Murtagh presents us with all the characters and how they relate to each other, their joys and sorrows overlapping in their day-to-day world. The ever-present threat of the ‘Cruelty Men’ has great impact on them all, but this does not overrun the wonder, cleverness and warmth of friendship and family that flows throughout the story, page after page. Nancy is a wonderful character; curious, loyal and determined. But this does not mean she remains undaunted. Faced with seemingly insurmountable situations for one so young, she buckles, she grieves and then…she rises. Together with her young friends, she will not give up. Filled with accurate historical detail, full of life, hope, steadfastness and with moments of humour and delight, a simply marvelous story!
Has resonances that echo from its time of 1945 right up to the present day … Ann Murtagh paints an utterly convincing picture of what life was like for the working classes in Dublin in the middle of the last century. Her research has been intensive, and she goes so far as to provide a map of the area so that the eager reader can trace the characters’ movements … The first chapter plunges the reader right into the sights and sounds of the Dublin of the time, and from there on it is an absorbing read … highly recommended
Attention to historical detail marks out Ann Murtagh’s The Kidds of Summerhill as a valuable insight into life in the Dublin tenements of the mid-1940s … laden with descriptive detail of street games and songs from the period, painting young readers a colourful picture of a relatively overlooked period in Irish history
Download Teaching Guides: Teaching guide to the book by Peter Heaney
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