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The Miner's Daughter Hardcover – February 6, 2007
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From School Library Journal
Grade 5–8—Willa Laura Lowell is a 16-year-old miner's daughter ushering in the Depression in a West Virginia coal miner's camp. The days are long and hard, but worse when the mine shuts down. There is no money, forcing Willa's father and older brother to look for work elsewhere. Left alone with her mother and three younger siblings, Willa helps as she can and dreams of a better life. Life changes dramatically for her and her family when they are offered a place in a new town. The teen never loses sight of where she came from and is determined to help others as she was helped. Richly drawn characters and plot make this an excellent novel that explores the struggles endured by many in America in the 1930s. The integrity of the characters and their resourcefulness show readers how, with hard work and determination, adversity can be overcome.—Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Willa has always lived in a tiny West Virginia coal town, where meager food, patched clothes, and hard work are the routine, but when the Depression causes the mines to close, her large family is left with nothing. She poses as a boy to find a job, while her father and brother join a crew doing very dangerous work. Willa's solace comes from Miss Grace, a missionary who opens a library where Willa can indulge her love of reading, and from Johnny, her new beau. Willa's older brother firmly believes that newly elected Franklin Roosevelt will fix things. Indeed, the family becomes part of Arthurdale, the New Deal community, but its good fortune is at the expense of those left behind for not being white or native-born. This bittersweet historical novel may be standard fare, but it has enough emotional resonance thanks to strong Willa, whose compassion, resolve, and literary ability make her a voice of change. Life during the time is convincingly portrayed, and readers will never doubt that Willa and her family are part of it. Krista Hutley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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The novel, set in a West Virginia coal town, features a strong family with shared values. They struggle to stay afloat. The protagonist, intelligent sixteen yeae-od Willa, is willing to work for a better life. A lover of poetry and books, she daydreams of unfaded dresses and a town without coal dust.
The mines close and the town is left with nothing. Soon news comes of work at Hawkj's Nest and many men leave to earn money to send home, only to return in greater need and worse health.
The family, beset with life-threatening problems, is given the opportunity to move into one of Eleanor Rosevelts planned communities, Arthurdale. Arthurdale repesents running water, a new house, no coal dirt, clean jobs, schools, books to read, a garden, and more
To leave mean losing school mates, boy friends, and familiar haunts. Should they take the risk?
A realistice story, well told.
The other mining families are just as hard-hit by the Depression, especially those who are foreign-born like the Olivettis, immigrants from Italy. Willa is sensitive and intelligent, and loves to read, so when a missionary comes offering a large library of pristine books, Willa devours them in-between chores, beginning with classics such as Little Women and working her way into more difficult poetry by Poe and Whitman.
When Willa's father and half-brother Ves leave to search for work at Hawk's Nest, Willa is left to hold down the precarious fort. As her mother's too weak to work, and the next-oldest is only ten years old, Willa must masquerade as a boy in order to pick in the fields; otherwise, the family would starve. She meets Johnny Settle, a boy around her own age who is smitten by her intelligence and courage, and the two begin a bashful courtship.
The remainder of the novel chronicles Roosevelt's projects as part of the New Deal, including a personal visit to the Riley Mines by Mrs. Roosevelt that has a huge impact on the Lowells' lives. The author includes brief notes as to actual New Deal settlements created by the Roosevelts, as well as several websites that give further information about real places and events in the story.
Miner's Daughter is written with great sensitivity towards the harsh realities of poverty, including poignant contrasts between the haves and the have-nots in a nearby town. This is a book that is just as pertinent today in a time of recession, inflation, and rising unemployment, and a book that speaks volumes on the warmth and love of family and the need for all of us to realize our dreams.