Saint John Don Bosco:

"Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?"

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop

What a rich tapestry (can’t help the pun) of the experience of children in a textile mill in Vermont, 1910.

The inspiration for this carefully-researched story began with a photograph of a child working in the mills taken by a reformer of the early 1900’s, a man named Lewis Hine.

Grace is only 11. We meet her on her last day of school. Her exuberant mouth and bad timing inspire her teacher to tell her to leave school. Grace thinks working in the mill will be a good alternative because her family needs the money.

Grace’s teacher regrets her hastiness. Grace is one of Ms. Leslie’s most capable students. In fact, she hates to lose her to the mill as much as Grace learns to hate working in it. But at this time, laws against child labor are not enforced. Letters written by Ms. Leslie to the authorities manage to eventually get her fired but do not bring the hoped-for law enforcement.

Grace ends up in a with an uncertain but hopeful future. One that by the end of the novel, you'll strongly desire for each child caught up in the mill life. Sadly, it was rarely something they or their parents hoped for themselves.

One context-approriate expletive, “dam…” and a description of a boy who caught his fingers in the mill-machine should not stop this from being a safe book for mid-older tweens.

In fact, in a large field of excellent historical fiction, Counting on Grace stands out as one lovely flower.


Historical Fiction: 1910; early 20th century; America; child-labor


elm September 1, 2010 at 8:37 AM  

Sounds like a story that I (most definitely NOT a tween any longer!) would really enjoy reading!

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