Steel Town


In Steel Town,
it's always dark.
In Steel Town,
it's always raining...

In Steel Town, the mills blaze all day and all night, making steel and even more steel to be shipped over the Magic Mountains, down the Pitch-Black River, and far, far away. The men who work in the mills work as hard as the machines that make the steel, never stopping. ...

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In Steel Town,
it's always dark.
In Steel Town,
it's always raining...

In Steel Town, the mills blaze all day and all night, making steel and even more steel to be shipped over the Magic Mountains, down the Pitch-Black River, and far, far away. The men who work in the mills work as hard as the machines that make the steel, never stopping. But when the men go home at night, a different side of Steel Town emerges — one filled with music and neighbors, pierogies and spaghetti, churches and front porches.
This gritty yet poetic world is brought to life through Jonah Winter's lyrical, rhythmic text and Terry Widener's luscious, nocturnal illustrations, whose massive figures glow with the few lights that shine through this darkness. This is a portrait of an imaginary town derived from the very real American steel towns of the 1930s, when the sky was often black as night all day and the cavernous mills belched out fire and smoke. Here is a journey to a town that time has not forgotten, just misplaced: Steel Town.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Phyllis Kennemer
Steel mills never sleep. The morning workers pass the night workers as they descend the stairs into the huge factory. The men function in a world of darkness with black smoke filling the air and rain so constant that they do not bother with umbrellas. The fires are bright and hot. Temperatures inside the blast furnaces reach 3,000 degrees, so nearby workers must wear protective clothing. The detailed description of the process of making steel is followed by a few pages showing the men playing pool in their spare time and the women sharing vegetables and preparing meals. The historic account of steel production (around 1935?) is vividly described in terse, sometimes repetitious text. The vibrant illustrations are the main attraction of this oversized book. Covering most of the surfaces of the pages with dark, somber scenes, they create a realistic sense of the dreary routines experienced in this time and place. A valuable resource for learning about the production of steel and the lives of people in mill towns. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

Gr 2-4- From the time children open the cover, everything about this oversize book speaks to the grand scale of steel and iron production circa 1935. Readers are drawn immediately into the heat and the grime of a steel town, from the tall trim size to the steely endpapers. The acrylic artwork creates an atmosphere of gloom with fiery furnaces and gray skies. Against this backdrop is the rhythmic, repetitious language detailing a day in the life of Steel Town. Starting with coal and ending with a "flaming river" of molten iron, the production of iron is lyrically described. The uses and purposes of iron round out the picture of steel while the workers go home and get ready for another day in the mills. Both informative and visually stunning, this beautifully written and powerfully illustrated picture book will make a perfect addition to any collection.-Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA

Kirkus Reviews
Evocative illustrations pulse with energy and poetic prose describes the nation's industrial past in loving detail. Although it may resemble other cities, "Steel Town" will be instantly recognized as Pittsburgh, Pa., though this by no means limits its appeal. From the mills belching smoke to the Hot Metal Bridge across which the molten iron travels, from the ornate churches to the humble homes of the workers, Winter captures the essence of the city. Recalling the WPA muralists, Widener's stylized acrylics emphasize hulking machinery, bleak landscapes and gloomy darkness while capturing the look of Depression-era fashions and decor. Touches of light-the reflected gleam of the furnace, the flowing gold of the hot metal-appear in almost every illustration, providing a welcome contrast. This amalgam of history, industry and imagination proudly stands as both a beautiful and intriguing glimpse into a long-gone past and a paean to the hard work required to create the "big beams used to make buildings...big sheets used to make cars..." (Picture book. 5-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416940814
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 5/20/2008
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 951,409
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 12.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonah Winter is the celebrated author of many picture book biographies, including Barack, which was a New York Times bestseller. His other books include Here Comes the Garbage Barge, Sonia Sotomayor, Roberto Clemente, and others. A poet and a painter, Mr. Winter lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Terry Widener is an award-winning illustrator whose picture books include Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man (a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book and an ALA Notable Book) and The Babe & I (a recipient of the California Young Reader Medal), both by David A. Adler, and Girl Wonder: A Baseball Story in Nine Innings (a Junior Library Guild Selection) by Deborah Hopkinson. Mr. Widener lives with his family in McKinney, Texas.

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