Mother Jones and Her Army of Mill Children by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (9780449812914)
Mother Jones is mad. She is furious at the treatment of children who work in the mills for a paltry 2 cents an hour to help keep their families from ruin. She saw the issue first hand and called the newspapers. But the newspapers are owned by wealthy men who were friends with the owners of the mills. So Mother Jones came up with a plan to create a protest march from Philadelphia to New York City. The march started on July 7, 1903. They got a lot of media attention, and Mother Jones changed her plan and decided to march to Washington, D.C. Mother Jones presented her arguments in every town and then the children put on a play. It took them fourteen days to reach New York City and six more to reach D.C. They didn’t get to see the President, but the march did its job anyway and laws changed to forbid child labor in the United States.
Winter tells the complex story of Mother Jones and her fight to stop child labor in the United States. By focusing on the march itself, the picture book stays sharp and fast paced. He uses quotes from Mother Jones in the text as well as on the endpapers which really capture the spirit of Mother Jones and her willingness to fight for others.
The illustrations center on Mother Jones in her black and white outfit standing out against a pastel world that is almost foggy in its softness. This works very well for this subject, showing the impact of a person willing to make sacrifices and stand up to demand change.
A dynamic look at the unique historical figure of Mother Jones and her continued impact on our world. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade.
Sweep by Jonathan Auxier (9780735264359)
Released September 25, 2018.
Nan Sparrow is one of the only girls working in London as a chimney sweep and she’s one of the best that ever climbed a chimney. She works for a brute of a master who pits her against the other top sweep, dangling an apprenticeship in front of them both. The work they do is dangerous with possible falls, and tight spaces where children can get trapped. Even skilled Nan can get stuck and one day that happens to her and the chimney is set ablaze. As she burns alive, Nan is rescued by a mysterious creature, a tiny char she has been carrying in her pocket that was left behind for her by the Sweep, a magical man who cared for her as a baby and child until he disappeared. Nan and her creature live together away from everyone since they all think she died in the fire. They build a family with one another until the time comes for Nan to stand up for chimney sweeps throughout London.
My goodness, this book is remarkable. I loved the London that Auxier has created for us with all of its Victorian charms. He peels away the charming veneer though and shows us the brutality of child labor, the dangers and the cruelty of chimney sweeping in particular. He blends his fantastic golem into this world, adding a fantasy element to a world that desperately needs some magic to brighten it. Without Charlie, the golem, this book would have been too hard and cold to bear. The same goes for the Sweep, who filled Nan’s early years with care and love.
Nan is a remarkable heroine who is witty, intelligent and caring. She has a wonderfully tough exterior that allows only a few people inside her real life. And yet, she gathers an amazing group of people who care for her and she for them. Throughout the book, Auxier warns readers that Charlie will be leaving eventually and readers will see him start to change through the story. Still, even with that warning, expect the heartbreak of the end of Charlotte’s Web as you read the final chapters. Have tissues at hand.
A new children’s classic that reveals the dark underworld of London and the incredible magic of making your own family, monsters and all. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Puffin Books.
I Like, I Don’t Like by Anna Baccelliere, illustrated by Ale + Ale (9780802854803, Amazon)
This spare and focused children’s picture book tackles the issue of child labor in a way that children will immediately understand. Looking at one object at a time, a child first says how much they like it, then the child responsible for making or gathering that object states that they don’t like it. So one child likes shoes, another doesn’t like shoes. One child likes music, another who plays on the street doesn’t like music. One child likes phones, another doesn’t like phones as they take them apart. The book ends with a heart-wrenching combination where one child likes playing and the other asks “What is playing?”
The book never loses sight of its purpose, pairing wealthy children with those living in poverty and doing child labor is a way to make sure that the message resonates with children and that they learn about their privilege in the world. The book ends with information on poverty and child labor as well as information on the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child and tips on how children can help.
The illustrations are stylised photographs that are painted and textured. They look straight into the faces of children from both sides of wealth and poverty, contrasting broad smiles with a deep weariness. Washes of similar colors further pair the contrasting dyads together into one image.
This is a very important picture book that is sure to inspire conversations and a desire to help. Appropriate for ages 6-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans.
Yasmin’s Hammer by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Doug Chayka
In Dhaka, Bangladesh, Yasmin rides to work in the morning in her father’s rickshaw. Though Yasmin longs to go to school, she has to help earn money so that her family can eat and her father can someday purchase the rickshaw. Yasmin thinks about the quiet days in her village before the cyclone forced them to move to the noise and bustle of the city. Now she must work breaking bricks for use in building roads and buildings. Even Yasmin’s little sister must work in the brickyard so the family can survive. Yasmin comes up with a plan of how she can both help her family and make sure that she can be educated too. Each day she works harder and faster than anyone else, and the boss gives her extra coins. These she saves for her secret plan that no one in her family knows about.
Sprinkled with Bangladeshi words, Malaspina’s text is poetic and strong. She captures the city and the country in tangible ways, through colors, sounds and smells. This is a book about child labor, though it is not overly dramatic. It is a quiet story of desperation in the face of poverty. The focus is on the importance of education for children and the struggles that a family must overcome to offer it.
Chayka’s illustrations are filled with warm light. They capture the hustle of the city streets, nicely contrasting it with the quiet of the countryside. Bright colors, enliven his paintings that invite readers into this story.
This is an important book that offers a glimpse of children living in very different circumstances than we see in our part of the world. It is one that will spur discussions and also have children realizing how well off they are to not have to work and to be able to go to school. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Lee & Low Books.