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3.6 3
by Jacqueline Davies

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Essie can tell from the moment she lays eyes on Harriet Abbott: this is a woman who has taken a wrong turn in life. Why else would an educated, well-dressed, clearly upper-crust girl end up in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory setting sleeves for six dollars a day? As the unlikely friendship between Essie and Harriet grows, so does the weight of the question hanging


Essie can tell from the moment she lays eyes on Harriet Abbott: this is a woman who has taken a wrong turn in life. Why else would an educated, well-dressed, clearly upper-crust girl end up in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory setting sleeves for six dollars a day? As the unlikely friendship between Essie and Harriet grows, so does the weight of the question hanging between them: Who is lost? And who will be found?

This is a powerful novel about friendship, loss, and the resiliency of the human spirit, set against the backdrop of the teeming crowds and scrappy landscape of the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the early 1900s.

Editorial Reviews


Essie lives a hardscrabble life with her widowed mother and younger siblings on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the early 1900s. The grim specter of poverty always hovers, yet Essie's spirit, her talent for creating beautiful hats, and her bountiful love for her little sister Zelda help to imbue their lives with joy and positive energy. As chapters alternate between earlier and later settings, we follow Essie to work at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. The plot builds—and so does a gradual awareness of cracks in Essie's grasp of reality. She is in denial about an accident that has taken Zelda's life, and she pursues a friendship with the mysterious Harriet Abbott, who shows up to work at the Triangle but does not seem at all like a typical working girl. Davies weaves two historic events—the disappearance of a wealthy heiress escaping family scandal and the catastrophic Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911, graphically depicted—into a lively tale of striving, unspeakable loss, and an eventual life-affirming resolution.

School Library Journal
It's the early 1900s and 16-year-old Essie Rosenfield works tirelessly at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Manhattan, but her meager wages are hardly her biggest problem. After she befriends the mysterious new girl, she learns that Harriet is a runaway and an heiress. Uncertain about revealing the girl's secret and thus losing a friend, Essie finds herself torn between what she believes is wrong and what she can't accept–the truth of her own sister's disappearance. When a devastating fire ravages the factory, Essie is too late in realizing that money isn't as important as family and friends. The chapters flip from Essie's past recollections with her sister to her present friendship with Harriet. Once the rhythm is understood, this unusual pacing adds depth and intrigue as the plot unfolds. There are many layers to this story, which will appeal to a variety of interests and age levels.
Library Media Connection
Many things are lost, and some may be found in this spellbinding tale of New York City in the early 1900s. Essie tells her story through two different time periods that are indicated by the use of different colored paper. As the story progresses, the reader comes to know that Essie has lost her little sister, Zelda, but Essie is in so much denial that she can't even bring herself to allow someone to say that Zelda is dead. Her mother has lost her husband, her daughter, and very nearly loses her son, yet she doesn't seem to be able to help Essie work through her grief. A young woman named Harriet, which Essie describes as "lost," comes to work at the shirtwaist factory where Essie works, and becomes a medium for Essie's change. Two historical events, the Traingle Shirtwaist fire and the disappearance of Dorothy Harriet Camille Arnold, the niece of a former Supreme Court Justice, set the stage for the tale. The characters and the plot are well developed and very believable. This could be used as a novel study in the middle school or in American literature or history classes. Recommended.
Children's Literature - Elizabeth D. Schafer
Tragedy looms over sixteen-year-old Essie Rosenfeld's Lower East Side community in 1911. Essie resents her widowed mother's brusque ways; nurtures her rambunctious younger sister Zelda; and frets about her brother Saulie's juvenile delinquency. To earn income, Essie sews garments for the Triangle Shirtwaist Company and designs fancy hats at home. She helps Harriet Abbott, who sits by her at the factory but seems too refined for that working class environment. Essie avoids her friend Freyda, especially when Freyda expresses condolences regarding Zelda, alerting readers Essie's perceptions are sometimes distorted. In scenes occurring from 1905 to 1911, powerful imagery and characterizations foreshadow future grief. Essie struggles to control Zelda whom she fears will be trampled in the streets or catch diseases from neighborhood children. Conversations with neighbor, law student Jimmy Eagan, embolden Essie to voice her opinions. Essie visits Harriet's apartment and realizes her new friend's secrets. Themes of loss and confusion effectively convey despair and monotony characters face while striving for autonomy. The deadly fire's portrayal thrusts readers into the horror erupting around Essie who helplessly watches friends die and struggles to survive. New York Times articles embedded in the narrative and an author's note provide historical facts appropriated for this novel's plot. Compare with Mary Jane Auch's Ashes of Roses (2002). Readers might find David Von Drehle's Triangle: The Fire that Changed America (2003) useful. Reviewer: Elizabeth D. Schafer
VOYA - Melissa Moore
Sixteen-year-old Essie Rosenfeld has known a lot of heartache—her father and two younger siblings are dead, her mother never smiles, her older brother skips school, and she has to work for a pittance in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory for the woman she calls "the Bull." Two bright spots in her life are her baby sister, Zelda, whom she worships, and Jimmy, a boarder in her building who is attending law school and has captured Essie's heart. When Essie is asked to train Harriet Abbott, the new girl on the floor, she recognizes a kindred spirit who knows what it means to be lost. Alternating chapters between the past and present slowly reveal Essie's past, and well-laid clues show that a tragedy has happened, something which Essie cannot handle. Haunting language evokes the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the early 1900s, and readers familiar with the fate of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory will be all the more concerned about the destiny of these two very different young women. The characters are well-developed, and the mysteries surrounding Harriet and Essie propel the story forward. Painfully difficult to read, Essie's progress through grief is nonetheless realistic and cathartic. Some readers may have difficulty blending the alternating chapters into Essie's one history, but the story offers hope tempered with reality to those who make the effort. Reviewer: Melissa Moore
Kirkus Reviews
Shortly before a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company killed 146 workers in 1911, a young heiress disappeared from New York City and was never found. Combining these two stories, Davies uses the first-person narrative of Essie Rosenfeld, a 16-year-old Triangle worker, to tell the tale of her befriending of "Harriet," an inexperienced new employee at the sweatshop who obsessively guards her privacy. Essie, with a frightful secret of her own, is drawn to her. These chapters alternate with others, printed on stained paper, also from Essie's point of view, that tell another equally chilling tale, beginning six years earlier with the birth of her younger sister, Zelda. This precocious child that Essie is largely responsible for raising becomes the focus of her dreams. The two stories eventually unite in a believable crescendo of horror. There have been several fictional accounts of this tragic fire; this one is distinguished by believable parallel stories and Davies's effective portrayal of the hardships of early 20th-century life in New York City. (historical note) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

Amazon Childrens Publishing
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)
680L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 14 Years

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Lost 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Angeline_Walsh More than 1 year ago
I was strolling down the aisles of the teen section at my library when I came across this book sitting on the shelf. It's cover caught my attention at once, the pink feathered hat hanging nicely on a wall. Interested to see what the book could be about, I read the inside flap and deemed it interesting enough to check out. I was at once absorbed into the incredible story of Essie Rosenfeld, a young Jewish girl living in the flats of 1911 New York City. The story was very powerful, emotional, and heartfelt. Jacqueline Davies intertwined history with Essie's story, which made the novel even more incredible. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves history and emotionally uplifiting stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing! I love it so much. It's so sad and exactly what I was looking for. I could reread it over and over...(already read it twice) I definitely recommend it. So touching! Definitely unforgettable.