From the Publisher
The parallels with today's conflicts make this great for discussing...and teachers may want to use the friendship scenes, set apart by italics, for reader's theatre.
Mixing historical fact with dramatic tension, Hurst's fast-moving and interesting novel will spark discussions about prejudice and racism, and introduce readers to the anti-Irish sentiments of this era.
School Library Journal
Children's Literature - Greg M. Romaneck
The time is just a few years before the outbreak of the Civil War and America is divided in many ways. In the town of Westfield, Massachusetts, one community reflects this division in a very harsh way. Westfield is a "Yankee" town where many residents can trace their ancestry back to the colonial days. Now, with the coming of Irish immigrants who work on a nearby canal, the community is changing. Against this backdrop two little girls, Charlotte and Maggie, forge a friendship despite the fact that one of them is a "Yankee" and the other an Irish lass. But can Charlotte and Maggie's friendship withstand the burning hatred that both sides seem to feel for one another? In this title Carol Otis Hurst investigates the dark lessons that prejudice can teach us. In the mid-19th century many Americans saw Irish and other immigrants as a threat to their culture, economic horizons, and common decency. Like prejudice in other ages, this wave of ethnic hatred contributed to the strains that taxed the American Republic before, during, and after the Civil War. This book sheds some light on this era and the underlying forces that divided and then brought together people in a world threatened by change. In this way Carol Otis Hurst's most recent book does a fine job of both telling a moving story and offering signposts for readers who look out into a world where ethnic, religious, and racial hatred create untold suffering.
School Library Journal
It is 1854, and in Westfield, MA, trouble is brewing. A wave of Irish immigrants has been coming to town, first to work on a canal and later to work in one of the local whip factories. Their growing presence is a threat to the "Yankees" who have settled there, and the novel opens with a sense of impending doom. In the midst of the turmoil, Charlotte Hodge befriends one of the Irish girls at school. Maggie Nolan's life is very different from hers-Charlotte's guardian operates a whip factory and Maggie's father works for him-yet the two fifth graders quickly become friends, resulting in Charlotte being harassed and bullied by the other Yankee girls and Maggie being pressured by her family to end the relationship. When trouble finally comes, the girls' steadfast friendship helps diffuse the mob threatening to burn down the new Catholic church. Mixing historical fact with dramatic tension, Hurst's fast-moving and interesting novel will spark discussions about prejudice and racism, and introduce readers to the anti-Irish sentiments of this era.
Elizabeth M. ReardonCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Novels with the theme of prejudice are often set in the south, but this one takes place in western Massachusetts in 1850 and is based on a real incident in which tensions between white Protestants and Irish Catholics erupted into violence. As told through the eyes of Charlotte, a Yankee fifth-grader, her newly formed friendship with Irish Maggie becomes a small and puzzling cog in the big wheel of bigotry. As Charlotte tries to counterbalance her temperance-touting aunt's bias, her brother's hatred of the Irish and her uncle's efforts to promote Irish workers in his whip factory, her discovery of the insufferable conditions that Maggie and other immigrants must endure brings home the reality. The girls' friendship is genuine; Charlotte's voice is believable, though sometimes na‹ve; and the dialogue segments between the girls reflect a child's simplistic viewpoint. The photo cover of two girls lacks appeal for this serious story, which can pique discussion about times and places when family and friends choose opposing sides. (Historical fiction. 8-12)