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WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? by George Ella Lyon


The Story of a Song

by George Ella Lyon & illustrated by Christopher Cardinale

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-933693-96-5
Publisher: Cinco Puntos

"Folk songs are alive," states Lyon in her author's note, and none is more so than "Which Side Are You On?"

The song, based on a hymn tune and lyrics, rose up from coal miners' strikes in Harlan County, Ky., in the 1930s. Narrated in the first person by a miner's son, this plainspoken account tells of the physical threat to the Reese family when their father is chased from town and the family comes under attack by Sheriff J.H. Blair's hired and armed thugs. Interspersed with the narration are the words of the song. Cardinale's digitally colored scratchboard art is dynamic and presents a visual reality that strengthens the history of the song and the people who sang it. The author's note adds a concise history of unions, laborers' demands for fair wages, safe conditions and an end of servitude to mine owners. Her explanation of the folk process is clear and shows how words and perceptions change over time. The book will be of great use in explaining U.S. labor history and development of workers' rights. Given that many of the same conditions exist today, only changed by mechanization, the music and lyrics included may well find use in the current generation.

Lyon has given today's readers a stirring story about yesterdays. (bibliography, websites) (Informational picture book. 4-8)