From School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-In eight chapters divided into various aspects of coal miner culture and job types (nipper, breaker boy, spragger, and mule driver were the typical jobs for children), Bartoletti recounts (Houghton Mifflin, 1996) life in Northeastern Pennsylvania coal country around the turn of the 19th century utilizing oral history and archival documents. Although the focus is on the lives of children, first-hand accounts of adults who remember life as child laborers or miner's daughters help to tell the story. Only the forward indicating her family's mining connection gives a slight indication as to the author's viewpoint about the industry. As in her award-winning Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow (Scholastic, 2005), Bartoletti's approach is devoid of bias or sensationalism. No embellishment is needed for the stories of men crushed so badly by cave-ins that they were scraped off the mine floors with shovels, children secretly sabotaging company equipment to ensure a day at the circus, young boys losing fingers and limbs in accidents, boys playing with homemade baseballs and engaging in strikes, and mine owners who valued mules over men. The clear, no-frills delivery by Suzanne Toren is perfectly suited to Bartoletti's style. The joy, the horror, the tenacity, the valor, the perseverance, and the loyalty of children growing up in coal country is presented, allowing listeners to form their own opinions. The only thing that could make this powerful audiobook even better would be the inclusion of the compelling black-and-white photos from the print version. With the current focus on Common Core Standards, this outstanding nonfiction selection fits the bill.-Lisa Taylor, Ocean County Library, NJα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
--This text refers to the
Gr. 5 and up. With compelling black-and-white photographs of children at work in the coal mines of northeastern Pennsylvania about 100 years ago, this handsome, spacious photo-essay will draw browsers as well as students doing research on labor and immigrant history. The story of these boys' lives are a part of Russell Freedman's general overview Kids at Work
(1994) and of Betsy Harvey Kraft's biography Mother Jones
(1995); but there's a wealth of personal detail and family story here that focuses on what it was like in the mines and in the homes and communities of these working children. Lewis Hines' famous pictures will grab readers, and Bartoletti has also gathered dozens of archival photos and heartbreaking oral histories. They show what it was like for eight-year-old breaker boys sorting coal surrounded by deafening noise and black clouds of dust, steam, and smoke; what it was like to be a mule driver underground; what it meant to be a spragger, a butty, a nipper. Drawing on personal interviews, archival tapes and transcripts, and a wide range of historical resources, Bartoletti finds heartfelt memories of long hours, hard labor, and extremely dangerous working conditions, as well as lighter accounts of spirited rebellion, mischief, and bonding. The immigrant experience is an integral part of this "coal culture": the strength of ethnic groups and the prejudice against them, and their banding together to form strong labor unions. As with most fine juvenile nonfiction, this will also have great appeal for adults. Hazel Rochman
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.