________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 13 . . . . March 4, 2005


The Dance of Life. (A Meggy Tale).

Margot Griffin. Illustrated by P. John Burden.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2004.
187 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-55005-125-3.

Subject Headings:
Teenagers-Juvenile fiction.
Ireland (County Kerry)-Juvenile fiction.
Dance-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Mary Thomas.

*** /4


Then Roddy's da asked, "Are there any who will accept O'Sullivan's challenge?"

All were quiet. Careful not to disturb the rainbow of ribbons tied into Meggy's curls, Fiona lifted the shawl off her friend's head. All gasped at the transformation. Where once had stood a small black-shawled hag, was now a raven-haired beauty, dressed in white lace and ribbons. As Meggy stepped with quiet grace to the front, a rumble of words raced through the crowd.

"Why, it's a young woman!"

"Aye, and a lovely one at that."

Then, louder still: "Lovely or not, what does she think she's doin'?"

"Only a man can compete."

"Only a man can be dance master!"


Just when she was considering retreating back into the crowd, Mr. McSorley broke through the shouting. "Stop your yammerin', ye fools. There is nothin' written that says a dance master must be a man. This competitor will be judged by her ability to meet the challenge or not. O'Sullivan, are you willin' to compete against Miss Meggy?"

Not only did O'Sullivan have talented feet, but he also had a crafty mind. Graciously he faced the crowd. "She's as brave as she is beautiful, isn't she? Of course, I'll accept her as my competitor."

Meggy's back. She’s a bit older than in Margot Griffin's previous Meggy tales, and she is suddenly required not only to support her family after a mine accident has left her father injured, unable to work, and needing constant care, but she must also earn enough to pay the arrears of rent that the landlord is suddenly demanding. If the whole family is not to be evicted by the end of the month, she must come up with the required money, but what can she do? The hedge school in which she taught for a while is too dangerous an occupation with British soldiers scouring the countryside for just such operations. Besides, it does not bring in enough. With the help of her friends, Meggy manages to convince the people looking for a new traveling dancing master that she, not a man, is the best person for the job. Adventure follows adventure, good and bad fairly evenly mixed, until a final (unbelievable) stroke of luck solves the family's money problems and allows Meggy to go home, to find her father on the way to full recovery. There is even some prospect that poor maligned Roddy may get his heart's desire as well, having been Meggy's helper and rescuer throughout.

     This is the third of the Meggy tales, and the best of the lot. There are still too many happy---and unhappy---coincidences needed to push the plot forward, but the more mature Meggy deals with her problems well, and certainly her experiences as a dancing teacher are entertaining and true to the nature of children though the ages. I could wish for a better way out of the family's financial woes than Meggy's finding a jeweled sword in the bog---how on earth she would manage to sell it without being robbed, murdered, or hanged, I really can't imagine!---and some of the dialogue does not flow as it should, due mainly to the difficulties of writing in dialect. However, on the whole, the reader is left satisfied that things are finally working out, and happy that Meggy will be able to continue dancing her way through life.


Mary Thomas works in two elementary schools in Winnipeg, MB, but having an Irish daughter-in-law means that she does have some feel for the sound of Irish speech.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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