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Ashes of Roses

Ashes of Roses

4.5 45
by Mary Jane Auch

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Sixteen-year-old Margaret Rose Nolan, newly arrived from Ireland, finds work at New York City’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory shortly before the 1911 fire in which 146 employees died.

Sixteen-year-old Rose Nolan and her family are grateful to have finally reached America, the great land of opportunity. Their happiness is shattered when part of their family is


Sixteen-year-old Margaret Rose Nolan, newly arrived from Ireland, finds work at New York City’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory shortly before the 1911 fire in which 146 employees died.

Sixteen-year-old Rose Nolan and her family are grateful to have finally reached America, the great land of opportunity. Their happiness is shattered when part of their family is forced to return to Ireland. Rose wants to succeed and stays in New York with her younger sister Maureen. The sisters struggle to survive and barely do so by working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Then, just as Rose is forming friendships and settling in, a devastating fire forces her, Maureen, and their friends to fight for their lives. Surrounded by pain, tragedy, and ashes, Rose wonders if there’s anything left for her in this great land of America.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Fast-paced, populated by distinctive characters, and anchored in Auch’s convincing sense of time and place.”—School Library Journal

“The facts are riveting. . . . A good addition to women’s history titles.”—Booklist, Boxed Review
Publishers Weekly
According to PW, "Auch combines a classic immigration tale with the events of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory in this spirited novel." Ages 12-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
In early 1911, 16-year-old Margaret Rose and her family emigrate from Ireland to the U.S.A. Before they ever get off of Ellis Island, however, Rose's father has to return to their native land with Joseph, the youngest son, whose eye condition prevents him from entering the country. Rose's American relatives quickly make it clear that her family is not welcome in their home, prompting Rose's mother to set sail for home as well. At the last minute, Rose and her younger sister convince their mom to let them remain in America—there is little prospect of a bright future for young women in Limerick. Eventually Rose lands a job as a seamstress at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Her friend Gussie is a strong union supporter, pushing for women's working rights and better conditions in the factories. Discovering friends who introduce her to the latest fashion and Nickelodeon moving picture shows, Rose begins to feel the truth behind the promise of American life and liberty. Then, on March 26, 1911, Rose's world comes crashing down. Students of history may be familiar with the tragic Triangle fire that claimed 146 lives that day. But never, never has the horror been so vividly depicted as through the eyes of young Rose. The final nail-gnawing, painstakingly researched, chapters are so riveting it's impossible to imagine someone putting the book down, except to catch a breath. An amazing read. 2002, Henry Holt,
— Christopher Moning
Roses appear ubiquitously throughout this story of an Irish immigrant in New York. Seventeen-year-old Rose Nolan's dreams of an American life with her family are thwarted when her brother fails the health test on Ellis Island. After her father takes him back to Ireland, Rose decides to stay on with her younger sister when her mother also returns home. Rose initially works making paper roses, but with the help of new friend, Gussie, she gets a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. As Rose is finishing her shift one day, the factory is hit by fire. With doors locked or chained shut, some workers jump out through windows, but many others, including Gussie, die in the fire. Plucky Rose manages to escape, locate her sister, and keep her life going in the right direction. Based on the true story of the Triangle fire in 1911, this novel captures the difficult life of an immigrant in the early twentieth century. The scenes from Ellis Island are particularly vivid. Rose is a thoughtful character, with a seventeen-year-old's stubbornness. Her sister, Maureen, is more of a plot device, serving as Rose's foil and a source of conflict. Gussie is interesting, but sadly underdeveloped. The language—with missin' Gs on every word—takes a bit of getting used to. With a spunky heroine and the historical backdrop of the fire, this book should find an audience with girls moving beyond the Dear America series and is recommended for school and public libraries where historical fiction is popular. 2002, Henry Holt, 249p,
— Kendall Diane Brothers
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, March 2002: This begins as a rather standard coming-to-America story, featuring the Atlantic crossing, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island—all new, of course, to YA readers who don't know this tale, which was the experience of millions of immigrants to America. Rose is a teenager coming from Ireland in 1911 with her mother, father, younger sisters and baby brother. The baby brother doesn't pass the physical exam at Ellis Island and abruptly, the father decides to take him back to Ireland, leaving the mother and other children to stay in New York with his brother. This doesn't work out very well, in fact disastrously, so the mother leaves Rose and the next oldest daughter behind and returns to Ireland to be reunited with her husband and baby. Rose and her 12-year-old sister Maureen are left to fend for themselves on the streets of New York City. They find beds in the garment district at the home of a Jewish man and his teenage daughter. Soon Rose gets a job with this young woman (named Gussie) at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in lower Manhattan and Maureen starts school. Gussie is a union organizer and tries to interest Rose in the struggle. Rose is more interested in meeting other girls and having fun spending her new wages. The working conditions are well described. The climax of the story, however, is based on the historical event of the Triangle fire in March 1911, a catastrophe that in a way makes us think now of the more horrific event of 9/11: corpses lined up to be identified by grieving friends and relatives, emergency crews doing their best. In fact, the author says, "This book is dedicated to the heroes of September11—both those who were lost and those who fought to save them—and to the indestructible spirit of the people of New York." Rose grows from a provincial girl to a young woman determined to fight for the rights of workers, to be a witness to the terrible working conditions that caused the deaths of so many of her co-workers at the Triangle factory. As such, this book works well as a complement to any studies of immigrants, living and working conditions at the first part of the 20th century in New York City, or the history of organized labor. (An ALA Best Book for YAs.) KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2002, Random House, Dell Laurel-Leaf, 250p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-The Nolan family's dreams of prosperity in a new country are shattered when baby Joseph fails the medical exam at Ellis Island and must be taken back to Cork by his father. Though Da promises a quick return, Ma is miserable. Frustrated by her dependence on the unwilling hospitality of prosperous relatives, she gladly accepts money from her brother-in-law for herself and her three daughters to return home. Having few opportunities in Ireland, 16-year-old Rose rebels and she and 12-year-old Maureen are allowed to remain in New York to seek work and schooling. Rose finds them a room with a kindly Jewish family, and the landlord's labor unionist daughter, Gussie, gets her a position at the Triangle Waist Company. The teen feels especially happy one morning, wearing a dress in a new color called "ashes of roses" in anticipation of a nickelodeon outing with friends after work. Within hours, her clothing choice takes on a macabre appropriateness as she, Gussie, and Maureen, who also works there, fight for their lives in a fire still recalled as one of the worst industrial disasters in U.S. history. Fast-paced, populated by distinctive characters, and anchored in Auch's convincing sense of time and place, this title is a good choice for readers who like historical fiction.-Starr E. Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sixteen-year-old Margaret Rose Nolan spends two endless weeks in steerage, coming to New York with her family from Limerick in 1911. But as soon as they arrive, her Da has to go back with her baby brother, whose eye disease keeps him from getting into the country. Ma, Margaret Rose (who chooses Rose as her American name), and Maureen find Uncle Patrick and prepare to stay with him, but his German wife and daughters do not take to the "greenhorns" and soon Ma, too, decides to go back. Rose wants to stay, however, despite an unpleasant experience at a flower-making sweatshop, and Maureen stays with her. They find a room with a Russian Jew and his fiery daughter, Gussie, a union organizer who gets Rose a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory. It is the infamous fire at the factory that forms the climax of this first-person narrative, but readers will come to understand the background of the tragedy as well as something of the immigrant experience through Rose's eyes. The local color of Hester Street, the rise of a second generation of Irishmen like Rose's Uncle Patrick, and the many nationalities of the girls who worked at Triangle provide some interest, but the characters don't quite come to life. Those who stay with the story, though, will be mesmerized by its gripping finale and the loss of so many Roses. (extensive author's note) (Fiction. 11-14)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.37(w) x 7.21(h) x 0.71(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Ashes of Roses

By Mary Jane Auch

Rebound by Sagebrush

Copyright ©2004 Mary Jane Auch
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0613722523

Chapter One


There was no sense tryin' to sleep. This was the last night we'd be tossed by the waves in our narrow bunks. We were due to pull into New York Harbor at dawn, puttin' an end to the most unbearable two weeks of my life.

I shifted in my cot, tryin' to nudge my little sister, Bridget, over. She was barely four, and small for her age, but she took up more than her share of the narrow shelf we were supposed to call a bed. Ma had staked out a claim to four bunks in a row on the lower level when we first boarded the ship, but Bridget whimpered that she was lonely and moved into my bunk the first night. Next to us was Maureen, the middle sister, who made it clear from the beginnin' that she wasn't sharin' a bunk with anyone. I don't remember bein' that stubborn at twelve.

I heard poor little Joseph begin to whimper. He slept with Ma, although for the amount of sleepin' he did he might as well have kept his eyes wide open. The last few days especially, he was fussin' more time than he was quiet. I'd be glad to get off the ship so I wouldn't have to endure the comments of our fellow passengers, who were gettin' less patient with Joseph by the day. I loved my baby brother, but I wasn't so anxious to be around him myself.

I nudged Bridget over again, but themotion of the boat sent her rollin' right back to me. Finally, I gave up and fished for my shoes and shawl under my bunk. I decided to go up on the deck and see if any land was in sight. I tucked Bridget in with Maureen and climbed the ladder to the deck. A soft gray light filled the sky, and the wind made me pull my coat tighter around me. I wished we could have made this trip in the summer instead of February. We'd seen so little of sunshine, I'd almost forgotten what it looked like.

It had been two weeks ago that we set sail from Cork. As long as I could remember, Da had talked about comin' to America for a better life. So many people had left before us, it seemed the natural thing to do. As we pulled out of port, one man had shouted, "Will the last man out of Ireland please lock the door?" That brought a round of laughter from his friends, but we weren't more than an hour at sea before they were gulpin' pints of ale and singin' about wantin' to go back to dear old Ireland. Grandma Nolan had told Da that, no matter how much you wanted to leave, Ireland would tug on your heart until you returned. I thought she was just sayin' that to make him stay with her in Limerick, but maybe there was somethin' to it.

The deck was empty this last mornin' except for an old man who always seemed to be there, as if watchin' for land would bring it on sooner. He was leanin' on the rail, squintin' into the wind. "See that?" he asked.

I looked around to make sure he was talkin' to me. "See what?" I said.

"That dark shape over there? And another to the left of it? That's the Narrows. When we go through there, we'll be in New York Harbor."

"Ye mean it's land?" I asked. "I can't see anything at all."

As we moved closer, I could gradually make out what the man was talkin' about. There were other ships, too, but I couldn't tell if they were comin' or goin'. Other passengers were startin' to appear on deck now.

My heart beat fast as I crashed down the ladder to the steerage quarters. "Ma! Maureen! Get up! We can see New York. Come up on the deck."

Ma sat up and went into action. "Help me get shoes on the girls, Margaret Rose. And make sure all our things are packed into the two suitcases. Yer father has the trunk over in the men's quarters."

"But can't all this wait, Ma? I just want to see the city. I'll come right back to help ye."

All the talkin' had wakened other passengers. As they climbed out of their bunks, every inch of floor space filled with bodies. The first- and second-class passengers had their own compartments, but in steerage we were crammed like fish in a tin.

Maureen sat up and rubbed her eyes. "Where are we? Is this America?" She pulled on her shoes and headed for the ladder with laces floppin'.

"Stay right here," Ma said. "We need to gather our things. Maureen, take the large suitcase, and I'll carry the small one along with luggin' Joseph. Margaret Rose, you carry the feather bed and hang on to Bridget. There's goin' to be a great crush of people gettin' off this boat."

"But we're goin' to miss the Statue of Liberty," I protested. "I could've stayed on the deck, but I wanted ye all to see it."

"And see it we will," Ma said, "but we're not goin' up on the deck until I say we're ready. Now run a comb through yer hair, and yer sisters', too. I'll not have Uncle Patrick see ye lookin' like a bunch of ragamuffins."

Maureen and I were ready to jump out of our skins by the time Ma decided we were ready. We waited our turn in line. Maureen went up first; then Ma handed the large suitcase to her. It was my turn next. I was glad to be goin' up this ladder for the last time. All through the voyage, the boys would make a big fuss about lookin' up the girls' skirts as we climbed. They must have been pretty bored to get so worked up over a glimpse of bloomers.

Ma had the feather bed tied firmly in a tablecloth, but it was still bulky. I had struggled about halfway up the ladder when the ship began to tilt. I clung to the rung above me, but there was a ruckus behind Ma.

"Saints preserve us, we're sinkin'," a red-faced man shouted. He grabbed my shoulder and pulled me down from the ladder, then pushed ahead and climbed out to save himself. People were shovin' behind us.

"Go ahead, Margaret Rose," Ma said. "I'll be pushin' Bridget right up after ye."

"Are we sinkin'?" Bridget whined.


Excerpted from Ashes of Roses by Mary Jane Auch Copyright ©2004 by Mary Jane Auch. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Mary Jane Auch is the author of numerous books for young readers. Ms. Auch lives in upstate New York.

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Ashes Of Roses (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My 13 yr. old granddaughter read this book in school as part of her class. She loves to read and to write. She asked me if I ever heard of this horrible fire. Yes I was taught about it as a young lady too. She told me how well the book was written and that it flowed. She couldn't put it down. I purchased the book and found that she was correct. It is well written and shows what immigrants went through from the time they left their country to come to a better life in America. It takes place in 1911 and was researched very well. A fictional story through the eyes of a very young Irish girl who grew up over night and survived what most did not. By reading it also we were able to discuss the problems back then with sweat shops, the lack of rights etc. We were able to sit down and talk about today's immigration problems, the sweat shops overseas and how our ancestors worked hard for a place in America and why we disagree with the situations that exist in today's world. I think every parent should read this book and with their children of age. It is a true read that promotes conversation on unions of the past and why they were formed etc. It promotes conversation over video games etc. This little book gave us both memories. Highly recommend. Thank you.
110kitty More than 1 year ago
Rose immigrates from Ireland with her family, who all must return to Ireland except her younger sister. Thus Rose, the teenager, must make it on her own in an unknown land where relatives are not welcoming. A good fictional look at the poverty and struggles of the Irish in their early years in the U.S.,focusing on the deplorable conditions of workers in large, unsafe, sweatshops. The horrors of the 1911 fire are most real as seen through Rose's eyes. This book will hold your attention throughout.
liza-lou More than 1 year ago
I read this book when I was 11 and loved it. It's about this immigrant girl making a life for herself in the new world. Through ups and downs, including a fire at the factory she works at, she learns what she needs to do. Being a strong woman, she perserveres.

This book is mainly for children ages 12+, but is okay for 11 year olds. (I was freaked out at the end. If you don't like sad books, don't read this one.)
Guest More than 1 year ago
I cried so much in this book. I've read it three times now and I love it every time. The issue is sad, but the story is wonderful, inspiring, and it captures your attention. You want to help Rose and you cry for her. I LOVE this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be quite enjoyable. Originally I was a bit hesitant to reading it, but when I actually sat down and read it, it was an enjoyable read. I would suggest reading this if it seems even the least bit interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ashes of roses was such a good book though it was sad but i couldn't put it down. I highly reccomend this book &hearts
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
B&N are not letting people post reviews not even normal ones i am in a rebellion to stop them if you want to join put a capital y next to your name if you dont then put a capital n also i dont care if you dont believe me
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is today. Also, if you were a part of the pact clans tribe, come back! We are at tribe camp result 1!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The small white cat stayed near a tree, almost blending in with the snow.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm an elder.))
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pads in. 'Anyone wanna buy a sardine?'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Slept, exhusted and cold
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Horseclan! At "James Dashner" result one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How about last res? Btw sparklestar is locked out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
WhisperWillow pads out to see what the commotion was about. "What's going on?"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Move to the resulr titled 'the fire within' !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We moved camp to res 8 or 9
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I may be locked out
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