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January 1905 Hardcover – May 1, 2004


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 4 - 8
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books (May 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0152051198
  • ISBN-13: 978-0152051198
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,420,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 3-5–This novel offers a close look at the harsh realities of life in a mill town during the early 20th century. The story centers on 11-year-old sisters, each envious of the other's "easy" life. Arlene, who was born with a "monster foot," is lonely tending house while Pauline works at the cotton mill with the rest of the family and other children. In alternate chapters, the twins narrate their parallel experiences. There is plenty of action as Pauline witnesses an accident in which a young coworker loses his thumb in the spindle and Arlene assists the local midwife. The story has a strong message about walking in another person's shoes. When Pauline injures her foot, she learns what it is like for her sister to live with a deformity. Arlene fills in at the mill for the injured boy and finds that there is no end to sweeping and lint. In the end, the girls recognize that their best opportunity for friendship is between themselves. An afterword discusses child labor in the United States in the early 20th century. A rather didactic novel, with good descriptions, this story is most likely to be used as a curricular tie-in.–Sharon R. Pearce, Chippewa Elementary School, Bensenville, IL
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 4-7. Grueling child labor provides the drama in this short, spare first novel, set a century ago and told in the alternating voices of 11-year-old twins Pauline and Arlene. The girls hate each other. Pauline works long, backbreaking hours in the mill, and she resents Arlene, "the favored one," who stays at home because she was born with a deformed foot. For her part, Arlene longs for the respect of a "real" job, even though she is responsible for the housework and helps the community's midwife. After Pauline injures her leg in a mill accident, the sisters become friends, but the real story is in the unsentimental view of families and the harsh facts of childhood at home and work, "lonely, boring, tiring, and dangerous." The sisters' plain, immediate, first-person present-tense narratives lend themselves to readers' theater, and teachers might want to pair them with the documentary images of photographers such as Lewis Hine. In a brief afterword, Boling talks about Hine--and about children around the globe who are, even today, forced into backbreaking labor. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Bell VINE VOICE on September 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
"January 1905," written by Katharine Boling, is a window into the life of two 11-year-old girls during the Industrial Revolution. The writing shows what life was like at the turn of the previous century, and what it meant for a girl to work in the textile mills.

The opening page compels the reader with its description of the mill whistle:
"The mill whistle begins like a woman sobbing before changing to a long wail." Kind of makes a gal happy to be in school these days, don't you think?

The real crux of this book is that the main characters, Pauline and Arlene are twins, and they hate each other. Pauline labors from dawn to dusk alongside the other members of her family at the local cotton mill, wishing like she could stay home with her sister.

Arlene does get to stay home, but she takes care of all the housework and cooking, dreaming of working at the mill one day and earning money and respect. Each girl is sure that the other one has an easier life, but then they get a chance to see how hard the other one works.

Boling describes the life of children working in the mills, the accidents that can happen, as well as the long hours. She also aptly describes all the work that needs to be done in a household, not to mention what happens when the work doesn't get finished. The jealousy that each girl harbors for the other is shown in the thoughts each think, as well as their actions toward one another.

From Pauline:

"What about me, Mama? I am tired to the very insides of my bones, and my foot has turned blue on the top. And you fret over Arlene."

From Arlene:

"P is for perfect - Pauline. A is for awkward - Arlene.
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By Nicole Levesque on July 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
January 1905 by Katharine Boling
Harcourt, 2004
Historical Fiction
170 pages
Recommended for grades 4-7

The final reading/writing research project of my school year is designed around the students exploring the history of child labor in America. We are mainly focusing on mill and mine workers, and will be using Lewis Hine's haunting photographs as deep sources of curiosity, inspiration and wonder. When focusing on a whole class topic such as this, I like to tie our read aloud in. This is the first year I have used January 1905 as a read aloud, and I'm happy to share my thoughts:

In this story readers follow twin sisters Pauline and Arlene through alternating narration over the course of a few days in their lives. Pauline is a mill girl. Arlene would have been a mill girl, but a foot deformity keeps her from being employed. Arlene's role is to stay home to do the cooking and cleaning while her family is at work. Each sister envies the others' lot, though Pauline seems to be much more resentful and full of hatred.

My students pointed out the lyrical sound of the text, and made me assure them on more than one occasion that it is not a poetic narrative! I appreciate that they are listening to this story with their writer ears, commenting on the craft of the writing.
The mill scenes are not harsh, but I did do some censoring of this story as I read aloud. The overseer of the factory supposedly touched Pauline inappropriately before the story begins, and I didn't see the need to go there. I also skipped around some during the scenes where Arlene is assisting in a home birth. None of these sections of the book would make me shy away from giving the text to a 4th grader, but when reading aloud I need to consider that not all my students are ready for those topics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rosedale25 on February 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
I picked this up because it reminded me of pictures of my grandmother and her sister. My daughter loved it. It gives a glimpse of a time in place in American history that is not a part of the traditional history curriculum.
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