Patricia Reilly Giff

American children's writer

Patricia Reilly Giff (born April 26, 1935) is an American author and teacher.



Water Street (2006)



With just the sweep of a pen, Thomas, you can change the world, all of it.
  • He wrote stories about everything he saw, and he saw a lot. He walked through the streets of Brooklyn along the water, or leaned against the store windows on Livingston Street watching people hurrying along, making up stories about this one or that one.
    • p. 3
  • "With just the sweep of a pen, Thomas, you can change the world, all of it."
    • p. 3; spoken by an unknown woman

Chapters 1-10

  • If only she could have held on to that day, held on to that moment forever, grasped it in her fists so it wouldn't escape.
    If only.
    • p. 11
  • Thomas watched him for a few minutes. Pop was good-looking, muscular, and his hair was almost gold even though it was getting a little thin on top. Thomas must have taken after his mother, whoever she was.
    • p. 13
  • But that was a realworld, and he didn't have to put it down on paper. He ripped the page out of the book, tore it into shreds, and threw them behind the tree, where they settled into the weeds.
    • p. 15
  • "A new start," Pop said as they stopped at the corner and waited to cross over to where te horse and cart waited for them. "A new apartment, Thomas. A new life."
    A new world to write about.
    • p. 17
  • "Is there anyone noisier in the world than Bird Mallon?"
    • p. 20; spoken by Annie
  • And the boy was right in back of her, his neck thin as a pencil. "My name is Thomas," he said. "Thomas Neary."
    She didn't answer.
    "The horse's name is Alfred, in case you want to know." He screwed up his face. "Or maybe Fernando."
    • p. 21-22
  • Bird.
    A good name for her. She wasn't a sparrow or a songbird, though. She stood so straight, and her face was strong.
    • p. 27-28
  • "I don't think he's touched a washcloth to his face since the day he was born."
    • p. 30; spoken by Bird about Thomas.
  • Everything stopped: forks half raised, a bowl being passed. It seemed that the man was bathed in red, great swaths of it across his shirt and hands. And then Thomas realized: he was covered in blood.
    • p. 43
  • How quiet everything was this Sunday afternoon, how still. No horse and wagon clopped down the street, no cart; no one stood on the corner talking. It was as if they were the only ones in the world.
    • p. 44
  • How many times had she seen Annie sew in a sleeve, easing both sides so that they wouldn't pucker, taking a stitch, and smoothing out the fabric again? And now Mama was doing the same thing to someone's head. Someone's skin.
    • p. 47

Chapters 11-20

She gives him candy. They're probably going to get married.
  • "She gives him candy. They're probably going to get married."
    • p. 61; spoken by one of the girls at Bird and Thomas's school
  • How could she know what she wanted to do with her life? All these years she thought she'd be a healer like Mama, and now she knew it was never going to happen.
    • p. 64
  • Writing wasn't easy for her. It wasn't like arithmetic, not like a column of numbers to be added or subtracted from the top of the blackboard to the bottom, neat and organized; or science, figuring out the why of things.
    • p. 65
  • Outside it had begun to rain, a fine mist of a rain: fall leaves were plastered to the walkway, and puddles filled with bits of hay and coal lay in the street. A nice bit to remember for the writing. Water Street! He loved to look at it.
    • p. 72
  • He was laughing again. What was it about Bird that made him do that?
    • p. 73
  • "No one in the world like my sister Birdie."
    • p. 84; spoken by Hughie
  • "Sometimes in life you have to do the hardest things to get somewhere—to change your life."
    • p. 87; spoken by Mr. Mallon
  • He remembered everything. Maybe that was why he was such a great writer. What he remembered he'd put on paper, but it came out different, more interesting, more exciting than she'd ever been able to imagine.
    • p. 90
  • What had it been like the first time Da tried to read the same page? She could almost see his finger under each word, the whisper of his voice as he sounded out the words to himself. How had he ever done that? It seemed impossible.
    • p. 95-96

Chapters 21-29

  • The girl's mouth was chapped, tight and pinched, her skin dry. Mama would say she looked woebegone, but as Bird looked at her eyes, the word she thought of was desperate.
    • p. 127
  • She didn't want to touch the baby. Didn't want to know if she was dead. But still she reached down, her arms underneath that small body, and pulled it up against her. The body was burning with fever.
    But alive. Alive!
    • p. 131
  • What was the use of writing if someone didn't read what you have to say?
    • p. 134
  • He knew what she'd be reading first as she started from the beginning, reading what he'd had to say when he was younger, and then growing older, stories at first about tiny mice who lived in families in back of the wall, and stories about school, and apartments in Greenpoint and Carnasie and Flatbush, elves in Ireland that he'd pictured as Pop had told him about them, and the woman with lace on her sleeves.
    She kept turning pages, and then halfway through, she whispered, "Water Street."
    Thomas knew she was reading now about a boy who listened at a register, thinking about a family, and a lighthouse, and then she turned the next page and took a breath.
    It was the story he really wanted her to see: a story about a girl who though less of herself than everyone else did, who worried about everyone, even when she didn't want to, even when it made her irritable. A girl who was afraid, and who hardly knew it yet, but was on her way to being a healer like her mother, because there'd never be anything else for her, and how lucky they were just to know her.
    • p. 135-136
  • She wanted to put her head down on her knees and close her eyes. She felt the way she had years ago when she'd tumbled down the stairs and had the wind knocked out of her: a pain in the chest and stomach so strong it was hard to breathe.
    • p. 139
  • How different everyone looked. How louldly they talked about who was starting work tomorrow, who would start in a week, while Sister Raymond sat at her desk looking serene. Bird felt a lurch in her chest. Of all of them, she though, she might be the one who'd miss school the most.
    • p. 159
  • Leave it to Annie. She knew everything.
    • p. 162


  • But what gave him the most satisfaction was going back through the pages to read about his first story appearing in the Saturday Evening Post.
    That afternoon he'd bought Bird the largest bag of lemon drops he could find.
    "He gives her candy," she had said, remembering too.
    • p. 164 (closing words); reference to quote from Chapter 11
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