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From the PublisherBooklist Starred Review
Gr. 2-5. Brown has found a winning topic to write about—literally. This grabber of a picture book for older children details the events in the summer of 1899, during which hundreds of young news vendors stood up to two of the most powerful men in the U.S.—William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. The financial circumstance that forced the kids to strike—the extra penny that the newspaper owners wanted to charge the vendors to buy their papers—is clearly explained, but Brown also personalizes the story very well. He does have some vividly named "newsies," to work with, including Kid Blink, Crazy Airborn, and Tiny Tim, who, when asked how long the strikers could hold out, answers, "Ferever." Like all David-versus-Goliath stories, this has a natural rooting factor, though the compromise ending may slow the cheering. The loose-lined, sepia-tone ink-and-wash artwork is less successful than the go-go text at capturing the fervor of the strike... The rousing cover, however, with the boys on the march, will grab kids, and the story inside brings history home to readers the same age as those who lived it.
Most of Brown's (Odd Boy Out, reviewed above) previous biographies have celebrated famous men and women. Here, the hero is a child. The son of poor immigrants, Kid Blink (so nicknamed, according to an endnote, for a blind eye) sells newspapers on New York City's streets. In the summer of 1899, when Mr. Pulitzer and Mr. Hearst raise the wholesale price for 10 copies of their papers (The World and The Journal) from five to six cents, Kid Blink and his fellow "newsies" decide to strike: "I'm trying to figure how ten cents on a hundred papers can mean more to a millionaire than it does to newsboys, an' I can't see it," Kid Blink says. "If they can't spare it, how can we?" The boy's public speeches unite hundreds of newsboys. Withstanding threats of violence and jail sentences, they stay true to their own code of chivalry ("A feller don't soak a lady," the hero tells newsies who threaten to steal papers from a woman's newsstand). In Brown's spreads and spot illustrations, draft horses, knickerbockers and bowler hats convey the flavor of life in the city more than 100 years ago. Brown's dreamy sepia washes soften scenes in which thugs hired by the newspaper magnates chase boys down alleys and policemen take children to jail. Although younger listeners may not fully understand the nature of the compromise that stopped the strike, they will be thrilled by the idea of a political movement which crowns an urban boy underdog as its leader, and by the sympathetic adults who shower Kid Blink and his friends with coins. Ages 5-9.
School Library Journal
Grade 3-6–"It was all for a penny…in the summer of 1899, Kid Blink, Race Track Higgins, Tiny Tim, Crutch Morris, and Crazy Arborn battled the world for a penny." That "world" was Joseph Pulitzer's The World newspaper (along with Randolph Hearst's The Journal), and that penny was a very important penny, indeed. Kids today may not understand the big deal, but when presented with this lively account of the facts of life in the day when "newsies" sold papers on street corners and 15 cents paid for dinner, they may have a better grasp of the elements of economics, the power of a penny, and the strength of organized labor. Subdued washes of sepia, lavender, and gray temper this telling of the sometimes-violent lengths to which hundreds of working children went to make themselves heard above the likes of Pulitzer and Hearst, and Brown's pictures have a sketched-quick quality that at once conveys the movement and the momentum of this slice of our history. An author's note and brief bibliography give sources and qualifiers. Add this catalyst for conversation about labor laws and workers' rights to Kathleen Krull's Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez (Harcourt, 2003), Holly Littlefield's Fire at the Triangle Factory (Sagebrush, 1996), and (for older audiences) Russell Freedman's seminal piece, Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor (Clarion, 1994).