Mama is a Miner

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``When I'm settled on Bus 34 / Mama's crowded into a low car / cap light off, dozing, swaying / headed for Black Mountain's heart,'' says the narrator, who describes in detail her mother's job as a coal miner. Unfortunately, the warmth and originality of this family story are undermined by a needlessly complicated format and structure. Lyon poetically juxtaposes informative sections about mining with the story of the mother ``digging for home''; but, in a voice detached from the rest of the fact-filled narrative, she interjects bewildering, if colorful, quatrains (`` Firedamp, blackdamp, / Fire Boss checks the air / Bad top, kettle bottom: / don't go there ''). Catalanotto (Lyon's collaborator on Cecil's Story and Who Came Down That Road? ) alternates affectionate portraits of the family above ground with dark scenes of the ``miles deep'' mine, but the relation of his superb watercolors to the text is not always clear. Underneath a painting of a tea kettle on a kitchen stove, for example, the text reads, `` Screak and ring, rail wheels sing. / Back into black. Battery pack. '' An interesting miss. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-A child is drawing and thinking at the kitchen table as her mother prepares the evening meal. The room is warm, and light is all around them-in the windows, on the toaster, stovetop, teapot, and calendar. The reflections are identical to those made by her mother's head lamp that she wears deep in the dark earth. The woman is a miner. Lyon's prose is rhythmic, authentic, and strong, using the first-person narrative of a child effectively. The result is a picture of a young girl who is at once proud, awed, and worried about her mother. Dialogue is spare but significant, consisting mainly of Mama's oft-repeated phrases: ``Hard work for hard times'' and ``I'm digging for home.'' The satisfying ending shows the child inside a light-flooded mountain made of blankets, revealing what she has been drawing all evening: a picture of her mother in work gear. Visually, the book is breathtaking, intertwining elements from the mine and home, child and parent, family chores and work for money. Mama brings light-into the mine and into the home-and Catalanotto's full-page, luminous watercolor illustrations vibrate with this energy. Muted shapes, soft edges, creative perspectives, and blending of scenes all come together to enhance the story of a youngster's complicated thoughts and emotions. This book packs a lot into its 32 pages and is far more than a simple ``I'm so proud of my Mama'' career-exploration story.- Lee Bock, Brown County Public Libraries, Green Bay, WI
Hazel Rochman
Mama is a coal miner in Appalachia. From the warmth of the family kitchen, a child thinks about her mother's job, and words and pictures set the worlds of home and work side by side. While the child settles on the bus to school, Mama rides two miles in a low car headed for Black Mountain's heart. Deep underground, she bends and sweats with her work team, shoveling coal or keeping watch on the working face, her cap light bobbing in the glittery dark. Children will hear the poetry that leaps from the particulars of the workplace, both in the child's simple narrative and in the miners' rhymes ("Mountain gold, black as night. / Some big city's heat and light"). Catalanotto's double-page-spread watercolors focus on the loving bond between the child and her mother, when they're together in the light-filled house, and when they're thinking of each other above and below ground. This mother never seems to get tired or cross, but there's no idealization of her work: mining is hard and dirty and dangerous; you do it because it pays the bills in hard times ("Son of a quarter/ daughter of a dime, / shoveling soup / on the old belt line"). There's drudgery underground and drama and powerful technology that "roars at the rock and rips coal from the seam." Set against that is the family dinner table, orderly and beautiful. Even when Mama is deep down the mine, she's "digging for home."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780531087039
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/1994
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.48 (w) x 9.07 (h) x 0.34 (d)

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