Author: Rosanne Parry
Reviewed by Chloe Fuksa, Putnam Six Bookstore
Author Rosanne Parry is well-known for her chapter books A Wolf Called Wander and A Whale of the Wild, but Last of the Name didn’t receive as much attention. It came out originally in 2019 and then was re-released in paperback in late 2022. It is a work of historical fiction, focusing on two young Irish immigrants who come to New York City in the spring of 1863, during the American Civil War.
Kathleen, aged 16, and Danny, aged 12, arrive without any family or any connections, so when they learn of two job vacancies, they immediately jump at the opportunity – even if it means Danny has to dress like a girl to be a laundress. He is a very talented singer and dancer, though, so when he can, he sneaks away in his normal clothes and performs on street corners for tips. His act ultimately catches the eye of a wealthy theater owner, who offers him the wages and stability that he and his sister have been dreaming of. Unfortunately, around them, the hostilities between the races and social classes reach a breaking point. An angry mob forms to protest the draft for the war, and soon businesses and homes are being looted and set on fire. Suddenly it seems like everything Kathleen and Danny have worked toward, their hope for a better future, is put into jeopardy, yet again.
What really works in Last of the Name is the balance. Kathleen’s tenacity is balanced with Danny’s charisma. The difficulties that they face are balanced with humor and levity. The true facts of the story are balanced with entertaining tales. Plus, the bond between the siblings is just beautiful, as is their devotion to their heritage and their faith through all the adversity. Overall, Last of the Name is a good example for kids – and reminder for any reader – that even though there is animosity and hate in the world, there is also love and compassion and generosity to overcome it – a superb book.
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