Growing Up in Coal Country

( 2 )

Overview

Inspired by her in-laws’ recollections of working in coal country, Susan Campbell Bartoletti has gathered the voices of men, women, and children who immigrated to and worked in northeastern Pennsylvania at the turn of the nineteenth century. The story that emerges is not just a story of long hours, little pay, and hazardous working conditions; it is also the uniquely American story of immigrant families working together to make a new life for themselves. It is the story of mischievous breaker boys playing tricks ...
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Overview

Inspired by her in-laws’ recollections of working in coal country, Susan Campbell Bartoletti has gathered the voices of men, women, and children who immigrated to and worked in northeastern Pennsylvania at the turn of the nineteenth century. The story that emerges is not just a story of long hours, little pay, and hazardous working conditions; it is also the uniquely American story of immigrant families working together to make a new life for themselves. It is the story of mischievous breaker boys playing tricks on cruel bosses during the noontime breaks. It is the story of women and children collecting coal to use and sell, defying the order of wealthy coal company owners. It is a story of hardship and sacrifice, yet also of triumph and the fulfillment of hopes and dreams.

“For a first-rate, accessible study of a time and place that played an important role in American economic and social history, look no further.” – School Library Journal, starred review

Describes what life was like, especially for children, in coal mines and mining towns in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
This is a fascinating history of the anthracite coal industry in Pennsylvania from the point of view of child laborers. How boys grew from "breakers" (who sorted the coal), to "nippers" (keepers of the underground gates), to "spraggers" (human brakes for careening coal cars), to mule drivers, and finally to full-fledged miners is worth the price of admission in itself. But Bartoletti's book goes way beyond this to describe the company towns, the labor disputes, and the ethnic animosity. She recreates a way of life. Wonderfully evocative black and white photos and selected excerpts from oral histories of survivors complete the picture. This book should make any frustrated schoolboy thank his lucky stars for the child labor laws that keep him in school-and not down in the mines.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Bartoletti uses oral history, archival documents, and an abundance of black-and-white photographs to make turn-of-the-century mining life a surprisingly compelling subject for today's young people. Zooming in on northeastern Pennsylvania in general, and the perspective of children in particular, she writes of the desperate working conditions, the deplorable squalor found in the "patch villages," and the ever-present dangers of the occupation. Stories of breaker-boy pranks and the roles of the animals at work bring some comic relief, but even they point out the enormous hardships suffered before there were effective unions and child-labor laws. The words and work of children are weighted equally with the efforts of the Molly McGuires, Mother Jones, and other adult players. Captioned, black-and-white photographs, with attributions, appear on almost every page, allowing the images to play a powerful role in the gritty story. The bibliography reveals the depth of Bartoletti's research. An introduction conveys her motivation (fascination with family stories), while a brief conclusion touches upon the region in the post-World War I era. For a first-rate, accessible study of a time and place that played an important role in American economic and social history, look no further.-Wendy Lukehart, Dauphin County Library, Harrisburg, PA
From the Publisher

Bartoletti has written a concise, thoroughly researched account of the often grim working and living conditions in Pennsylvania coal towns. An accessible writing style, as well as the abundance of stimulating information, makes for an engrossing historical account. Quotes from personal interviews with miners, as well as taped interviews and transcripts, provide a refreshing first person frame of reference. Horn Book

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.
Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

Bartoletti uses oral history, archival documents, and an abundance of black-and-white photographs to make turn-of-the-century mining life a surprisingly compelling subject for today's young people.
School Library Journal, Starred

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781455857272
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 11/6/2012
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Age range: 8 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Campbell Bartoletti, the author of Kids on Strike!, divides her time between writing and teaching. She lives with her husband and their two children in Moscow, Pennsylvania. Her husband is the grandson of Massimino Santarelli, who immigrated from Italy as a boy and worked in the Pennsylvania coal mines for forty-five years. His accounts of his mining experiences were the inspiration for this book.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2002

    Having Just Read This Book!

    After completing for the second time a tour of the Lackawanna Mine near Scranton, PA, and visiting the adjacent Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum where I purchased this book, I find the text to be extremely well written, illuminating, and easy to read. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in the history of anthracite mining or the ethnic diversity of the anthracite region.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2000

    GREAT

    EVERY MIDDLE SCHOOL CHILD SHOULD READ THIS BOOK.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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