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Pegeen by Hilda van Stockum
Bethlehem Books —Ignatius Press, 1941
Number of pages:


Seven-year-old Pegeen Murphy is a lovable Irish child with an active imagination and mischievous way. Her grandmother, who had been taking care of her, dies and Pegeen is left with only an uncle in America as her nearest relative. The parish priest, Fr. Kelly makes arrangements for Pegeen to stay with a family in Bantry Bay, the O’Sullivans.

Pegeen joins the O’Sullivan family: Mother, Father, Brigid, and the twins, Francie and Liam. While the parents and the twins are charmed by Pegeen’s imagination and creative ways, Brigid is not as readily accepting of the new arrival.

Mishap after mishap follow as Pegeen tries to be helpful at home, which usually ends up in some disaster. She attends school for the first time and wreaks havoc in the classroom. Later, she is the cause of a lost pig and then tries to make up for her deed by searching for him, resulting in more adventures.

But Pegeen’s wild ways are nurtured carefully by the ever-patient and loving Mrs. O’Sullivan. Towards the end of the book, Pegeen makes a great sacrifice and chooses to stay home and miss a much-anticipated picnic in order to care for the ill Mrs. O’Sullivan.

When Fr. Kelly arrives, bringing news of Pegeen’s uncle who is willing to have Pegeen come to America, the family is in great dismay. Even Brigid softens and shows remorse at the thought of Pegeen leaving. In the last chapter, Mr. and Mrs. O’Sullivan offer to have Pegeen stay with them, which , of course, is the pleasant and happy end to this delightful book.

Strong points:

  • A healthy and realistic Catholic family is portrayed by Hilda van Stockum in her characters of the O’Sullivan family. The daily joys and sorrows of family life are depicted in her book.
  • The story’s setting is in Ireland; the reader will develop an appreciation for the Irish people, culture, and history.
  • Illustrated by the author, the lively pictures found in this book add great delight to the story.
  • The transformations depicted in Pegeen and Brigid throughout the story are ones of hope and courage, as their relationship develops into a true and caring friendship.
  • Mrs. O’Sullivan is portrayed as a true mother, ever ready and willing to sacrifice and give of herself for the benefit of her family.
  • The book is filled with beautiful descriptions and is rich in vocabulary that will enhance the reader’s knowledge and appreciation for good texts. Many excellent themes such as family and work can be easily identified and used as subjects for dictations and compositions.


The only potential drawback to this book was found when dictation texts involved some of the Irish brogue that is used in the conversations. This Irish dialect may need some explanation and clarification if selected passages are chosen for dictations.


Pegeen is a book filled with familiar family situations, set in a Catholic atmosphere. It is a story that children delight in as they follow Pegeen and her adventures with the O’Sullivans. Many are inspired to read more about the O’Sullivan family in Hilda van Stockum’s other books, The Cottage at Bantry Bay and Francie on the Run.