The tragedy known as the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire marked a turning point in the development of the labor movement in the United States.
Because many of the victims were just teenagers, the fire that killed 146 young workers has the potential to hold great interest for young readers. This effort focuses primarily on the Gilded Age’s economic expansion and decadence, immigration, and the labor movement that emerged to protect workers from the extreme exploitation that arose during the era. Although it includes the stories of several young workers who either survived or were victims of the fire, just three chapters describe the conflagration and its aftermath. Readers seeking a book that focuses on it should look elsewhere. The tone is often casual, often characterized by comments such as “Mechanized factory work paid squat” and describing horse manure accumulating in “big poop piles.” (“Poop” occurs frequently.) The book is marred by both poor research and poor writing. Booker T. Washington is incorrectly identified as founder of the NAACP, and noted photographer Lewis Hine (who spent years documenting child workers) is introduced thus: “a reporter by the name of Lewis Hine reported a story of kids who worked on farms.” There are few photographs. Sophisticated readers interested in the fire would do better to read David Von Drehle’s book for adults Triangle: The Fire That Changed America (2003).
Neither fully accurate nor especially engaging. (Nonfiction. 12-18)