Like most school libraries we had a copy of Under the Hawthorn Tree in our classroom. It was one of those books that I loved to curl up with and read. One that I read a few times a year and loved it more even more each time I read it. So when I was asked to review the Irish version I was thrilled. The story is the same as I remember it and one I can freely admit that I still really enjoy. Set during the 1840’s in famine ridden Ireland the story focuses on the lives of three young children who face all kinds of dangers associated with the famine.

Tosnaíonn an scéal leis na páistí ag caint faoi na sean leathanta, nuair a bhí go leor bia acu agus nuair a bhí an chlann ar fad le chéile agus sásta. D’athraigh rudaí don chlann nuair a bhí ar an athair an teaghlach a fhágaint chun obair a fháil. D’imigh an máthair go luath i ndiaidh sin chun é a lorg. Bhí na páistí fágtha leo féin….It wasn’t long before their world was turned upside down and the children found themselves, like many others facing into a life in a workhouse. The workhouse was something to be avoided at all costs, it was miserable and the children would have been no better off there. They decided to go to their great-aunts in Castletaggart instead, a place their mother had told them so much about, a place where they could be happy, safe and looked after. Le linn an scéil bhí ar na páistí deagháil le an-chuid deacrachtaí, idir a bheith ocrasach, gortaithe agus cailte, ní raibh sé éasca orthu. D’fhoghlaim na páistí an-chuid fúthú féin agus an muintir timpeall orthu. Bhí orthu a bheith cróga, láidir agus cabhrú a chéile.

The strength of characters ensures this a book a genuine joy to read. The Irish translation adds to the pleasure of reading this classic Irish children’s novel. The Irish used throughout the novel isn’t overly complicated, after all the novel is aimed toward a younger reader so the translation should recognise this and follow suit. It doesn’t disappoint. The Irish translation is simple, easy and at the level of the senior end of primary school. That’s not to say it’s overly simplistic, there is still a high level of Irish used and plenty to work with if used in class as a class novel. There is a wide range of vocabulary used, lovely phrases and gripping language. This would be an ideal class novel to read together and enjoy as a group. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the story or the characters but I will say if you haven’t read this before then now is the perfect time to give it a try in either English or Irish. But I think the Irish version may be more authentic, being the language spoken during the famine. It’s been a pleasure to read and I’m very grateful to Seomra Ranga for asking me to relive my childhood through this book.

Helen Bullock is a substitute teacher, teaching mainly in the Limerick area. She blogs regularly on her own blog Anseo a Mhúinteoir. Many thanks to her for doing this book review.