Growing up in Coal Country

( 2 )

Overview

Through interviews, newspaper accounts, and other original sources, Bartoletti pieced together a picture of life in the Pennsylvania coal mines at the turn of the century. "With compelling black-and-white photographs of children . . . this handsome, spacious photo-essay will draw browsers as well as students doing research on labor and immigrant history." -- Booklist, starred review

Author Biography: A former 8th-grade English teacher, Susan Campbell Bartoletti writes fiction ...

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Overview

Through interviews, newspaper accounts, and other original sources, Bartoletti pieced together a picture of life in the Pennsylvania coal mines at the turn of the century. "With compelling black-and-white photographs of children . . . this handsome, spacious photo-essay will draw browsers as well as students doing research on labor and immigrant history." -- Booklist, starred review

Author Biography: A former 8th-grade English teacher, Susan Campbell Bartoletti writes fiction and nonfiction for all ages. Black Potatoes is the winner of the ALA Sibert Award for Best Information book, the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Distinguished Nonfiction, and the SCBWI Golden Kite Nonfiction award. She lives with her family in Moscow, PA.

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

School Library Journal - Audio
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, NJ
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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781455858217
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 11/6/2012
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Age range: 8 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.12 (w) x 6.50 (h) x 1.00 (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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