Reviews for Don't Tell The Girls : A Family Memoir


Booklist Reviews 2005 March #1
Gr. 4-7. In this inviting book, Giff reflects on her childhood and her family, going back through several generations. Spotlighting her two grandmothers, she lovingly relates remembered conversations and incidents involving the one she knew well before turning to the other grandmother, whom she never met. Wanting to know more about that side of the family, Giff pores over newspapers from the 1800s on microfilm at the public library. So begins a quest that eventually leads her to Ireland, where she discovers the village where her ancestors once lived. As an introduction to genealogical research, as a story of immigration, and as a memoir, this little book has much to offer thoughtful children involved in the narrative while encouraging them by example to reflect on their own families and their family stories. With deckle-edged pages and sharply reproduced family photos and documents, this handsome book's small format reflects its intimate, conversational style. ((Reviewed March 1, 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2006 Spring
While readers of Giff's autobiographically based historical fiction will enjoy finding links in this memoir, the structure--tangents upon tangents--is sophisticated, almost dreamlike. Adults may be the most natural audience for Giff's musings on memory, genealogy, and history, all well served by the author's always economical writing and sharp eye for expressive detail. Copyright 2006 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2005 March #2
Like her dear Nana, her mother's mother before her, Giff is a gifted sort of seamstress, stitching stories and fancies and family legends with fine threads of fact to construct a fabric of her family's history. This is a gentle little memoir of that process, full of poignant, sometimes terrible, flashes of discovery. "Start with what you know," Giff is told, and that she does, inviting her readers to join her as she hunts and gathers glimpses of the past in hopes that they might confirm, connect and converge. From the impetus of a single story to heirlooms, Records Rooms, far-flung homesteads and much-removed relatives, readers become as much entwined in the tales of Reillys and Tiernans and Monahan/Mollaghans as the strands of the Celtic knots that ornament these pages. Dead ends do not deter her; feet of clay do not disillusion her. Persistence pays and her affectionately narrated experience, enlivened by family photographs and memorabilia, will encourage aspiring family anthropologists. (Nonfiction. 9+) Copyright Kirkus 2005 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2005 March #1
The title of Giff's (Lily's Crossing) warm memoir are the words with which Nana, her late maternal grandmother, began many of the stories she told her granddaughter. "The girls" were Nana's three daughters, including Giff's mother. Weaving together her memories of her grandmother, as well as snippets of the stories she shared, the author reveals the strong bond between the two and Nana's continued presence in her life. Her close relationship with this grandmother inspired Giff to learn more about Jennie, her paternal grandmother ("If she hadn't died before I was born, would she have shown me pictures, told me I looked like one of her sisters or cousins? Would she have wrapped me in her shawl and sung to me the way Nana had?"). As Giff chronicles her research into Jennie's life a journey that takes the author to Ireland where, in a poignant moment, she locates the 400-year-old house in which her ancestor was born the author incorporates anecdotes about other family members as well as engaging details about the period. Neatly bringing her story full circle, Giff encourages her own grandchildren to share the details of their past with their grandchildren ("Maybe it's important for us to know that we share many of the same experiences in life, whether it's in the 1800s, the 1900s, or even in the twenty-first century. Maybe it brings us closer to people"). This affectionate family portrait will appeal to Giff fans of all ages, and anyone with an interest in his or her own genealogy. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2005 July
Gr 6 Up-This book is more about how to research one's family roots than a childhood memoir. Readers follow Giff as she tries to uncover information about the paternal grandmother whom she never knew. She tracks down her Irish ancestors and travels the road to unraveling their past, culling out the fiction from the facts, honoring the sacrifices they made, uncovering mysteries, and reconstructing family skeletons. Giff also describes the close relationship that she shared with her maternal grandmother, Nana. Yet, she seems curiously distanced from her mother, who is infrequently and off-handedly mentioned, and Nana seems equally at odds with her daughters. Overall, with the exception of Nana, the omission of well-developed family ties creates a skip in this record. This memoir demands readers with a keen intuition to catch the nuances woven into it. Black-and-white photographs of the individuals mentioned contribute glimpses into the past, but offer few answers. The author's attachment to Nana and her inquisitiveness about her family history are the only tangible bits of passion conveyed.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2005 August
This touching memoir consists primarily of family stories that connect this two-time Newbery Honor-winning author to her ancestors and to her descendants. The small-size volume can be read at a single sitting and contains grand old family photos and illustrations of genealogical research aids such as marriage and death certificates and city directories. The book thus provides a small template for researching one's family history. The stories move back and forth in time and are confusing about Giff's age when she was conducting her library research. The author's interest in her ancestry was piqued by her maternal grandmother, Nana, who showed the child family photos from a dusty box in her attic. Nana is whimsical and flighty but a comforting and adoring grandmother. Giff's paternal grandmother, Jennie, died before the author was born. Giff is drawn to Jennie's story, and it leads the author as an adult all the way to Ireland where the mystery of why Jennie's parents immigrated to America separately is resolved. As a child, the author found it difficult to accept the sad parts of life, even crying while reading Black Beauty because of people's cruelty to the horse. Writing this memoir, wrapped in Jennie's handed-down shawl and warmed by memories of the cheerful Nana, Giff is inspired by the courage of both her grandmothers in spite of the hardships they endured. By book's end, it is the comforting arms of family history that Giff extends to her own grandchildren, and to her readers.-Florence H. Munat Illus. Photos. 3Q 3P M J S Copyright 2005 Voya Reviews.

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