The Tempering

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A well-written account of three teenagers struggling with growing up and striving for their individual dreams. . . . The realistic pictures of mill working conditions and the total power of the shop foremen give the readers a chance to see some of the reason for union organizing.”
English Journal
Children's Literature
Vividly written with a ring of authority, the story follows Karl Kerner's coming of age in early twentieth century Canaan, Pennsylvania, a town filled with the smoke and roar of mighty steel mills. At fifteen, Karl is anxious to leave school and begin a man's job at a local mill. Brash, burly, handsome Jame Culley and sensitive, intelligent Andy Stulak are his best friends, even though the Culleys are shanty Irish and the Stulaks are Central Europeans, a group generally despised as "hunkies." Their lives become complicated. Jame and Karl's sister, Kathleen, fall in love and marry secretly. Andy adores the mayor's daughter. Karl is smitten by his beautiful and sympathetic new teacher, who tries hard to persuade him to stay in school and avoid the maiming and often fatal accidents that occur in the steel industry. Subsequently, both Karl and Andy have experiences so emotionally crushing that they run away from home. Karl returns but Andy becomes involved in the beginning labor union movement. This portrait of an era in American blue-collar life stresses the pride of skilled workers in their labor, the cruelty of class distinction and prejudice, the dangerous conditions rife in factories and mills, and the simplicity of everyday life, where a silent movie was a major entertainment event. It is an effective reminder of the way people lived less than a hundred years ago. There is an afterword by Margaret Mary Kimmel. 2000 (orig. 1983), Golden Triangle Books/University of Pittsburgh Press, $9.95. Ages 11 to 14. Reviewer: Patricia Dole
KLIATT
Karl Kerner is a 15-year-old boy living in the Monongahela Valley in Pennsylvania who can't wait to turn 16, when he can quit school and go to work in the steel mill. He even tries to get in early but ends up losing the job in a day when an accident occurs. This story ranges around the lives of Karl and his friends and all of their families, whose lives are intertwined with the steel mills. Pennsylvania history and that of the smoke-belching steel mills come alive with the characters of the town, including the schoolteacher who tries to keep her students in school, and Karl's mother and father who work hard to keep their family together. This novel won the Golden Kite Award of the Society of Children's Book Writers, and was also chosen as an ALA Best Book for YAs. Golden Triangle Books. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1983, Univ of Pittsburgh Press, 190p, 21cm, $9.95. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Barbara Jo McKee; Libn/Media Dir., Streetsboro H.S., Stow, OH, March 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 2)
From The Critics
"From the moment of his birth he'd heard the throb of the mills. It was as much a part of him as the sound of his heart beating beneath his skin." The Tempering is the story of one young man's transition from schoolboy to workingman, but it echoes the lives of so many others who worked the steel mills before World War I. Based on the accounts of her father, Skurzynski weaves the strong will to work and love of family that typified life in the steel towns with clear descriptions of the long hours, low pay, and unhealthy environment endured by both workers and their families. Karl Kerner is a boy poised on the edge of his sixteenth birthday, a day he must reach before he'll be allowed to quit school and go to work in the mills. He longs to be a man and be given "man's work" in the mills, but a young teacher comes into his life with other plans. Karl is drawn to her as she begins her struggle to convince the boys of the town to stay in school and out of the dangerous mills. Through depictions of Karl's own family and those of his friends, the hardships and joys of living in this historical period are given breadth and color. The reader is pulled into the social dynamics and struggles of the people who live in Canaan, breathing the steel dust and marching to the rhythm of the mills. Families endure the deaths of children from diseases that have yet to be controlled, and men lose life and limb in the hot mills, not only from the dangerous work involved, but also from their untamed co-workers. Through it all, though, families stay together and neighbors help one another, despite any differences that come and go between them. This book would be useful in a middle school history class tofacilitate discussions of the working conditions inherent in many industries at the turn of the twentieth century. It is also exciting for any young person interested in historical stories. As one of the Golden Triangle Books, the University of Pittsburgh Press will dedicate a Website to The Tempering that will include links to other sites discussing the subjects covered in the book and lesson plans for teachers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822957416
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Series: Golden Triangle Bks.
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Read an Excerpt

From the moment of his birth he'd heard the throb of the mills. It was as much a part of him as the sound of his heart beating beneath his skin."

The Tempering is the story of one young man's transition from schoolboy to workingman, but it echoes the lives of so many others who worked the steel mills before World War I. Based on the accounts of her father, Skurzynski weaves the strong will to work and love of family that typified life in the steel towns with clear descriptions of the long hours, low pay, and unhealthy environment endured by both workers and their families.

Karl Kerner is a boy poised on the edge of his sixteenth birthday, a day he must reach before he'll be allowed to quit school and go to work in the mills. He longs to be a man and be given "man's work" in the mills, but a young teacher comes into his life with other plans. Karl is drawn to her as she begins her struggle to convince the boys of the town to stay in school and out of the dangerous mills.

Through depictions of Karl's own family and those of his friends, the hardships and joys of living in this historical period are given breadth and color. The reader is pulled into the social dynamics and struggles of the people who live in Canaan, breathing the steel dust and marching to the rhythm of the mills. Families endure the deaths of children from diseases that have yet to be controlled, and men lose life and limb in the hot mills, not only from the dangerous work involved, but also from their untamed co-workers. Through it all, though, families stay together and neighbors help one another, despite any differences that come and go between them.

This book would be useful in a middle school history class to facilitate discussions of the working conditions inherent in many industries at the turn of the twentieth century. It is also exciting for any young person interested in historical stories. As one of the Golden Triangle Books, the University of Pittsburgh Press will dedicate a Website to The Tempering that will include links to other sites discussing the subjects covered in the book and lesson plans for teachers.

Read More Show Less

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