This is first part of an epic story about a young girl’s journey from Ireland to Portland, Oregon in the mid nineteenth century.
‘Slim’ is the Dutch for ‘smart’ or ‘clever’, and 11-year-old Slim Hannigan is a feisty heroine who’s not too keen on her real name of Rosalind. She lives with her family in rural Ireland, where life is hard, but there is laughter and love to keep them happy. Everything changes when the potato crop fails in 1845, leading to terrible hunger, illness and death in the community. Slim’s older brother Henry gets involved with the Ribbonmen fighting against the landlords’ oppression, and a whole series of events culminates in the family having to flee their village and emigrate to America. The long voyage across the Atlantic is described in harrowing detail, and life on arrival in New York is equally challenging. However, through Slim’s courage and determination the family finds a way to survive, and their home-made printing press, which they brought all the way from Ireland, provides them with the means of starting their own newspaper business.
Slim is an engaging character who makes friends with all kinds of people along the journey, facing up to danger and grief with great courage. There are important themes running through the book, including the power of storytelling, literacy, freedom of speech, and equality. As Slim says about her newspaper – “I can run it as well as any man”. The book brings to life an important period of Irish history, and what it was like for Irish immigrants in America. It’s also a good, pacey story written with humour and understanding. Well lined up for the next instalment.