From School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-This picture-book biography of Clara Lemlich, a spitfire who fought hard for better working conditions, is an engaging, informative introduction to her activism as well as to the deplorable state of the U.S. garment industry in the early 1900s. Ukrainian-born Lemlich came to the United States with her parents to escape the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, only to be thrust into another appalling nightmare: the American shirtwaist factories. She began on a small scale to encourage her coworkers to strike, but at a union meeting, when even men wouldn't call for a walkout, she rose and shouted to the large gathering that the time for a strike was now, inspiring tens of thousands of women to leave their stations in the factories. Markel's style is clean and clear, making Lemlich's story accessible to a young audience. Readers are treated to solid information with a buoyant message about standing up for what is right. Sweet has created an outstanding backdrop for Markel's text with a vibrant collage of watercolor, gouache, blank dress-pattern paper, bookkeeping pages, stitches, and fabric pieces. This spirited account concludes with additional material on the garment industry and a solid bibliography. A first purchase.-Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, ARα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* In the winter of 1909, a brave girl named Clara Lemlich, only five feet tall, picketed for workers’ rights. She arrived in America along with hundreds of other immigrants from eastern Europe, hardly speaking any English. But instead of her father being hired, it’s Clara the factories want, and off she goes to make women’s clothing in a garment factory from dawn till dusk. The conditions are appalling: “If you prick your finger and bleed on the cloth, you’re fined. If it happens a second time, you’re fired,” and more. While the men at the factory don’t think girls are strong enough to strike, Clara proves them wrong, eventually leading the “largest walkout of women workers in U.S. history.” Markel’s informative text buzzes with details of the oppressive conditions and neatly plays up Clara’s can-do spirit, but she perhaps tries to cover too much territory, and as a result, omits some crucial explanations (e.g., why can’t Clara’s father get hired?). However, Robert F. Sibert Medalist Sweet (Balloons over Broadway, 2011) creates punchy, vibrant collages that make up for any shortcomings. The zingy images masterfully (and appropriately) incorporate fabric and stitches as well as old images of checks and time cards. One particularly moving picture is seen from above as row upon row of workers toil away. A detailed note about the garment industry and a selected bibliography conclude. This book has fighting spirit in spades—you go, Clara! Grades K-3. --Ann Kelley