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Counting on Grace Paperback – August 14, 2007

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Counting on Grace + Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor + Kids On Strike!
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 5-8–Inspired by Lewis Hines haunting photograph of a French Canadian girl in Vermont in 1910, Winthrops compelling story vividly captures the mill experience. Grace Forcier and her friend Arthur, both 12 and the best readers in the mill school, are forced to suspend their educations to doff bobbins for their mothers frames in the spinning room. While this is difficult for left-handed Grace, Arthur is desperate to escape the stuffy, sweaty, linty, noisy factory. Miss Lesley, their teacher, helps them write a letter to the National Child Labor Committee about underage kids, as young as eight, working in their mill. Grace understands the dilemma a response will cause. If the children dont work, the families wont have enough money to survive. Lewis Hine is the answer to the letter. He comes and photographs the mill rats, as the kids are called; no one will believe the conditions without pictures. Arthur, however, can wait no longer to carry out his escape plan. In a horrifying scene, he jams his right hand into the gearbox of the frame, painfully mangling it and losing two fingers. Miss Lesleys interference causes her to be fired, and she encourages Grace to be the substitute teacher, leaving readers with a sense that she will escape the mill and have a better life. Much information on early photography and the workings of the textile mills is conveyed, and history and fiction are woven seamlessly together in this beautifully written novel. Readers wont soon forget Grace.–Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gr. 6-9. Inspired by a Lewis Hine photo of a child at work in a Vermont cotton mill in the early twentieth century, Winthrop imagines the story of Grace, 12, torn from her one-room schoolhouse and forced to work long hours in the textile mill as a "doffer," turning cotton into thread, alongside her mother, in the spinning room. The child-labor story is gripping--the dangerous working conditions, the work of activists who sought to publicize the abuse--and although sometimes the research overwhelms the story, Grace's present-tense narrative makes the history heartbreaking. Grace is no sweet victim. Furious at having to leave school and distressed by her failure to satisfy her French Canadian immigrant family, she quarrels with her best friend and smart ex-classmate, who deliberately injures himself on the machines to get back in school. The fiction is framed by notes about Hine and a bibliography that will lead readers to such books as Russell Freedman's Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade against Child Labor (1994) as well as to accounts of abuse today. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling (August 14, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553487833
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553487831
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

ELIZABETH WINTHROP (, the author of over sixty works of fiction for all ages, was born in Washington, D.C. Her award-winning titles for children include The Castle in the Attic, Counting on Grace, The Red-Hot Rattoons and Dumpy La Rue. Her short story, The Golden Darters, was a selected by BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES by Robert Stone. Under the name Elizabeth Winthrop Alsop, she is the author of the memoir piece, Don't Knock Unless You're Bleeding; Growing Up in Cold War Washington. She is currently working on a personal history about her parents' love affair during World War II. The daughter of Stewart Alsop, the political journalist, she divides her time between New York City and the Berkshires.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
When a children's author wishes to write a piece of historical fiction, there are a number of ways to do so. They can write about a specific historical moment. The fall of Pompeii, for example, or perhaps a battle during the Civil War. They can also just pick a period in time rather than any one single moment. The most difficult historical fiction, however, is when an author decides to incorporate a real person into their fictional narrative. This technique is a staple of poorly written children's books. You know what I mean. The old idea that falls along the lines of Martin Luther King Jr. meets a kid from the future and teaches him a valuable lesson, yadda yadda yadda. Ugh. It takes a careful hand and a steady talent to do what Elizabeth Winthrop has accomplished with, "Counting On Grace". Winthrop knows that if you were going to write a book where, for example, a small girl meets someone like Lewis Hine, you're going to have to give your hero (not the historical figure) enough of a backstory and life to make her just as real as Hine himself. The joy of "Counting On Grace" is that even though this is a story about a horrific time concerning horrific events, it's not depressing or much in the way of a downer. It's a beautiful, emotional, remarkable little book. Mangled hands and all.

Grace can't stand still. Every day her family goes to work in a Vermont cotton mill while she goes to school with the other mill children. She's a good student, of course, but she can't even read without her feet dancing about. That changes fairly soon, however, and much to her delight. She and her friend Arthur are going to go work on their mothers' machines in the mill, she willingly, he unwilling. But finally making some money for her family isn't as much fun as Grace had anticipated.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John G. Stewart on September 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
Although identified as a children's book, "Counting on Grace" is a book that should reward readers of all ages. The author, with great skill and sensitivity, weaves a fictional account of a young girl who is forced to work in the local cotton mill with historical fact about the documentation of these conditions. especially by the renown photographer of working children, Lewis Hines. With three grandchildren exactly the age of Grace, I found this gripping story provided a rare look at how some children were forced to enter the adult world, with its difficulties and dangers, and were summarily deprived of their childhood and education. This is a unique look at mill towns and the people and families who struggled there at the turn of the 20th century. I highly recommend "Counting on Grace" for readers whatever their age.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Independence Dave on March 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
For the sake of full disclosure: I did have an agenda in selecting the CD of "Counting on Grace" for our last family road trip. I hoped that a story about the tragedy of child labor might convince my 10-year-old that she's really not being worked to death by having to clean her room. That being said, our whole family was captivated by the story. The author avoids all the traps that she could have fallen into, such as creating characters who are angelic or evil caricatures, or milking a series of tragedies just to catch the reader's sympathy and calling it "realism". Grace's life is hard - almost unimaginable to our modern sensibilities - but she still has people who care for her, moments of fun, and even reasons to hope. And despite the drudgery of millwork, she keeps us eager to find out what happens next.

If you share this story with your children, be sure to go farther. Find a book of Lewis Hines' child labor photos, or go to the Library of Congress website, which has 5,000 of them. Listen to the author's NPR interview, where she talks about her research and discovered the family history of Addie Card, the girl in the photo. And take away from your reading experience a sense of just how much we have to be thankful for.

The ending is satisfying enough to provide some closure, though the author states in her interview that she has some ideas of how the story could continue. Ms. Winthrop, if you're reading this, please give us a sequel - you know you want to!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kelsey May Dangelo on December 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
Twelve-year-old Grace, daughter of immigrant parents from Canada, is a bouncing, energetic, vivacious rural Vermonter. Grace is torn between her teacher's desire for her to make a better life through education and her mother's desire for her to work in the mills to support her family. Highly intelligent Grace is eager to grow up and go to work, but discovers that, being left handed, she is less capable than the other workers. One day, Lewis Hine, a photographer, comes to secretly investigate the mill and takes Grace's picture. This fantastically well-written book (completely in Grace's voice) is one of the best young adult novels I've ever read. Grace's world is very real, from the detailed descriptions of the mill to the characters that surround her and determine her destiny. The historical tale (set in 1910) makes us, as Lewis Hine's photographs do, look directly into the eyes of the child labor issue. Grace, in her excitement and need to work in the mills to provide for her family, but her even deeper need to do more with her life. Grace--as all young teenagers do--must face her domineering mother's expectations for her life and to become her own person. A beautiful, funny, clever, well-characterized, poignant, and powerful novel. Grade: A
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