From the Publisher
"A beautifully written novel that puts a human face on history...Paterson at her best--and that's saying a lot." Kirkus Reviews, Starred
"Stirring and dramatic." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review
"Paterson has skillfully...created vivid settings, clearly drawn characters, and a strong sense of...hardship and injustice." School Library Journal, Starred
"[Paterson] remains a smooth storyteller, and this is an informative exploration of a key moment in U.S. labor history." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Through the eyes of Rosa, the sixth-grade daughter of Italian immigrants, and Jake, a 13-year-old homeless boy, readers see how bigotry, hunger, and hope all played key roles in the millworker strike of 1912 in Lawrence, MA. Aspiring to be "an educated, civilized, respected American," Rosa struggles with alternating embarrassment and pride in her mother (who strikes, along with Rosa's older sister) and her cultural heritage. Jake struggles, too, haunted by a dark family secret. The two friends witness history in the making while finding their place in the world. In the skillful hands of award-winning Paterson, this tale warms the heart as much as it enlightens the mind. (Ages 8 to 12)
Child magazine's Best Children's Book Awards 2006
Returning to themes she explored in Lyddie, Paterson sets this novel in the winter of 1912 in Lawrence, Mass., where the plight of textile mill workers unfolds through the alternating third-person perspectives of a boy millworker, Jake Beale, and Rosa Serutti, whose mother and sister work in the mill. The two meet when sixth-grader Rosa looks for her discarded shoes in the trash heap where 13-year-old Jake, who has fled his abusive, alcoholic father, plans to sleep for the night. Though they do not introduce themselves, Rosa offers the boy her family's kitchen floor for the night. Their paths cross again, most notably after the workers strike, and violence escalates to the point where striking parents send their children to families who support the union cause in New York City and Vermont. Rosa, headed to Vermont, helps Jake escape with her. The book feels like two stories in one: the first part immersed in details of the historical strike (an endnote lays out the facts), and the second part set in Barre, Vt. Unlike Lyddie, Rosa is a bystander to the workers' plight (though she does come up with the title mantra for the strikers), so readers may find her character elusive until the book's second half. Jake eventually becomes sympathetic, but mostly due to the kindness of the memorable Mr. Gerbati, the children's foster father and a gifted Vermont stonecutter. Readers may wish for an entire book about this gentle man. Ages 10-14. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
It is 1912 and Rosa and her family live in cramped quarters in Lawrence, Massachusetts, after her father dies. Despite every able-bodied child and adult working in the textile mills, the family and its boarders are hungry and poor. When the mill workers strike, in the legendary Bread and Roses strike, Rosa's mother leads the charge. But Rosa is terrified that the violence will escalate and she will lose those dearest to her. Rosa, along with other children of striking workers, is sent to a sympathetic union town where she is placed with an elderly Italian couple to be cared for. Jake Beale, Rosa's friend, has joined her, posing as her brother, and unexpectedly finds himself at home for the very first time. This period piece is rich in detail, background relating to mill conditions is striking, and Rosa and Jake are wonderfully three-dimensional. The resolution of the strike and the well-being of Rosa and Jake make for a satisfying ending. 2006, Clarion, Ages 10 to 14.
Joan Kindig, Ph.D.
VOYA - Susan Levine
The 1912 textile mill strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, known as the Bread and Roses strike, is seen through the eyes of twelve-year-old Rosa Serutti and thirteen-year-old Jake Beale. Rosa's father was killed in a mill accident, and her mother and older sister work in the mill, affected by the horrible working conditions and the recent cut in hours and pay. Rosa goes to school and is influenced by her teacher's comments against the strike. Jake is a mill worker, supporting himself and his alcoholic father. Rosa and Jake meet in a trash heap where he is spending the night away from his abusive father and where Rosa is looking for her shoes. The mill workers, most of whom are immigrants, suffer greatly from the winter cold and lack of food, clothing, and shelter, but they are determined to remain united against the mill owner. They receive assistance from outside groups, and as the strike continues and violence grows, sympathizers in other cities invite the strikers' children into their homes. Rosa is sent to Barre, Vermont, assisting Jake in escaping from Lawrence by saying that he is her older brother. The two live with the wonderful Gerbatis, finding comfort and caring. Paterson creates well-developed characters who invite empathy. The terrible conditions under which they lived-the stink; the dust and filth; the lack of food, heat, or any bit of comfort-all are described in detail that increases understanding of the suffering and courage of the strikers and those who helped them. Their story is history made memorable.
Everything Paterson writes is excellent. This historical novel is about the strike by workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912. In some ways it is a continuation of the theme of her novel Lyddie, about a mill worker in Lowell, Massachusetts in the mid-19th century. She tells of two young people's experience over the several months of the strike. It's interesting because neither of them, Rosa or Jake, is an enthusiast for workers' rights; they just get swept up in the events surrounding them. Rosa's mother and older sister are workers who are completely committed to the strike. Rosa is slightly ashamed of them, their poor English, their risk-taking. Jake is a worker himself, abused by his drunken father, illiterate, a petty thief. The two are sent with other children from Lawrence to Barre, Vermont, to socialist families supporting the strikers by taking in the starving children, taking care of them until the strike is over. An Italian American couple takes in Rosa and Jake, who are pretending to be brother and sister. The man, an accomplished stone worker and nobody's fool, soon suspects Jake is lying, but his response is unexpectedly kind. The way Paterson works in the historical details that are known--the terrible plight of the workers and their families, the evolution of the strike, the support from the growing labor movement around the country--is moving and sound. She speculates on how the slogan of the strike, Bread and Roses, Too, came into being, which fits in nicely with her characters and their feelings. It doesn't hurt for us all to be reminded of the conditions of workers who have no rights, and how the labor movement in the US changed our society for the better. Thisnovel, just as Lyddie does, fits in well with studies of US history, especially cultural and economic history. KLIATT Codes: J*--Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2006, Houghton Mifflin, Clarion, 275p., $16.00.. Ages 12 to 15.
School Library Journal
Katherine Paterson returns to Massachusetts mill history with the 1912 Lawrence strike as the backdrop for this novel (Clarion, 2006). Jake, an illiterate boy from the mills, is befriended by Rosa, whose mother and sister are also on strike. Though they are both poor, Rosa's loving family sends her to school, while Jake must fend for himself and his abusive, alcoholic father. The clashes between strikers and the local authorities have Rosa worried about her family's safety, and Jake is looking for food and shelter. When Rosa's mother sends her to Barre, Vermont, one of several places where union sympathizers are caring for children caught in increasing violence, Jake stows away on the train. The resolution of the strike allows Rosa to return home safely, but Jake, haunted by a terrible secret, commits a rash act that could cost him his first real home. Laura Bayer effectively conveys the story's wide range of emotions, and convincingly employs various accents to present the diversity of a turn-of-the-century mill town. While the novel can stand alone as a powerful story about overcoming adversity, pairing it with Lyddie (Dutton, 1991), the author's look at Lowell mill girls, will give listeners valuable insight into this aspect of American history. Paterson has again created characters worth caring about, but Jake's and Rosa's struggles will also spark dialogue on the hardships faced by an earlier generation of immigrants that has relevance today.
Barbara WysockiCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Known as the Bread and Roses strike, the 1912 mill workers' protest against working conditions in the mills of Lawrence, Mass., is the historical context for Paterson's latest work, a beautifully written novel that puts a human face on history. When young Rosa Serutti, looking for shoes she's hidden, meets Jake Beale sleeping in a trash pile, the two become acquaintances and, eventually, part of a family of sorts. When conditions in Lawrence turn dangerous, "shoe girl" Rosa and "Rosa's rat" Jake are among the many children sent "on vacation" to host families in cities such as Philadelphia, New York and Barre, Vt., a part of American history not often covered in textbooks. Readers will be totally wrapped up in the stories of Rosa and Jake, Mrs. Serutti and older daughter Anna, both active in the strike, and Mr. and Mrs. Gerbati, the host family in Barre. The history is neatly woven into this story that explores the true meaning of community and family in hard times. A fine historical note provides additional background. Paterson at her best-and that's saying a lot. (acknowledgments) (Fiction. 10-14)
Read an Excerpt
Chapter One Shoe Girl
The tenements loomed toward the sky on either side of the alley like glowering giants, but they’d keep the wind off. There was plenty of trash in the narrow space between them. It stank to high heaven, but, then, so did he. He began to burrow into the heap like a rat. A number of rodents squawked and scrambled away. Hell’s bells! He hoped they wouldn’t bite him while he was asleep. Rat bites hurt like fury.
For a moment he stopped digging, but the freezing air drove him farther in.
He tried to warm himself by cursing his pa. The words inside his head were hot as flaming hades, but they didn’t fool his hands and feet, which ached from the cold.
He’d heard of people freezing to death in their sleep. It happened to drunks all the time. He sometimes even wished it would happen to his pa, although he knew it was wicked to wish your own pa dead. But how could Jake be expected to care whether the brute lived or died? The man did nothing but beat him. Dead, he wouldn’t beat me or steal all my pay for drink—and then beat me for not earning more. He was keeping himself agitated, if not warm, with hateful thoughts of the old man when he heard light footsteps close by. He willed himself motionless.
It was a small person from the sound, and coming right for his pile. You can’t have my pile. This one’s mine. I already claimed it. I chased the rats for it. I made my nest in it. .
. . He began to growl.
“Who’s there?” It was the frightened voice of a child—a girl, if he wasn’t mistaken.
“What do you want?” He stuck his head out of the pile.
The girl jumped back with a little shriek. Stupid little mouse.
“Who are you?” she asked, her voice shaking.
“It’s my pile. Go away.” “I don’t want your pile. Really, I don’t.” She was shaking so hard, her whole body was quivering. “I—I just need to look in it—to find something.” “In here?” “I think so. I’m not sure.” He was interested in spite of himself.
“What did you lose?” “My—my shoes,” she said. “How could you lose your shoes?” “I guess I sort of hid them.” “You what?” “I know,” she said. He could tell she was about to bawl. “It was stupid. I really need new ones. But Mamma said Anna had to stand up all day on the line and she needed shoes worse than me. I thought if I lost mine . . . It was stupid, I know.” She began to cry in earnest. “Okay, okay, which pile?” He stood up, old bottles, cans, and papers cascading from his shoulders. She put her left foot on top of her right, to keep at least one stockinged foot from touching the frozen ground. “You smell awful,” she said.
“Shut up. You want help or not?” “Please,” she said. “I’m sorry.” They dug about in the dark. At length, Jake found the first shoe, and then the girl found the other. She nodded gratefully, slipped them on her feet, and bent over to tie what was left of the laces.
“You didn’t lose them so good.” “No. I guess I knew all along I’d have to find them.” She gave a little sigh. “But thank you.” She was very polite. He figured she went to school even in shoes that were more holes than leather.“ You can’t sleep in a garbage heap,” she said.
“And why not?” “You’ll freeze to death is why.” Somehow with her shoes found, she didn’t seem like a scared mouse after all.
“I done it before. Besides, where else am I gonna go?” “You might—you can sleep in our kitchen.” She blurted the words out, and then put her hand quickly to her mouth.
“Your folks might notice,” he said.
“Besides I stink. You said so.” “We all stink.” She grabbed his arm.
“Come on before I change my mind.” They went in the alley door of one of the buildings and climbed to the third floor. “Shh,” she said before she opened the door. “They’re all asleep.” She led him between the beds in the first room and then into the kitchen. There was no fire in the stove, but the room was warmer than a trash pile.
“You can lie down here,” she said. “We don’t have an extra bed— not even a quilt. I’m sorry.” “I’ll be okay,” he said. He could hardly make out her features in the dark room, but he could tell that she was smaller than he and very thin, with hair that hung to her shoulders.
“I’ll be up before your pa wakes,” he said.
“He’s dead. Nobody will throw you out.” Still, the first stirring in the back room woke him the next morning. A kid was crying out and a woman’s voice was trying to shush it, though Jake reckoned it to be a hunger cry that could not be hushed with words.
He got silently to his feet. There was a box on the table. He opened it too find a half loaf of bread.
He tore off a chunk, telling himself they’d never miss it. Then he stole back through the front room, where someone was snoring like thunder, and out the door and down the stairs and on down the hill to the mill and to work. No danger of freeziiiiing there. He never stopped moving. Why, even on these frigid winter mornings, he was sweating like a pig by ten o’clock.
Later he remembered that he hadn’t even asked the girl her name or told her his.
Copyright © 2006 by Minna Murra, Inc., Reprinted by permission of Clarion Books / Houghton Mifflin Company.
What People are saying about this
From the Publisher
A beautifully written novel that puts a human face on history... Paterson at her bestand that's saying a lot.
Kirkus Reviews, Starred
The immigrant labor struggle is stirring and dramatic.
Booklist, ALA, Starred Review