A breaker boy in the Pennsylvania mines learns to overcome his fears.
A few months before Corey Adamski, a white boy of Polish and Welsh descent, turns 12, old enough to legally work in the local coal mine, he falls through the ice while skating and nearly drowns. He’s saved only by the skilled emergency ministrations of Mrs. Chudzik, a doctor’s widow and a solitary woman who’s universally shunned as a witch. In the accident’s aftermath Corey suffers panic attacks that render him claustrophobic; unable to force himself into a mining shaft, he accepts a job as a breaker boy, someone who plucks waste rock and shale out of conveyor belts of anthracite. When the other boys haze him, he runs away—to be rescued by Mrs. Chudzik again. Inexplicably, he gets to keep his job and is therefore on-site when his father is trapped in a mine explosion and Corey must go to his rescue. Corey isn’t a particularly strong-minded or sympathetic character, and many of his interactions with family and friends don’t quite ring true. Readers may find themselves wishing for more time with Mrs. Chudzik.
Acceptable but far from groundbreaking. (Historical fiction. 8-12)