Winter focuses on Mother Jones’ Children’s Crusade to introduce young readers to the history of protests against child labor.
“My name is Mother Jones and I’m MAD. And you’d be MAD, too, if you’d seen what I’ve seen.” Thus begins Mother Jones’ first-person narrative about her long career fighting child labor practices in the early 20th century. The first pages depict Mother Jones in front of smoky factories, in West Virginia coal mines, and in Philadelphia fabric mills, where white and brown children toil “for TEN HOURS STRAIGHT.” Her anger at what she saw led Mother Jones to organize the central event of the volume, a children’s march from Philadelphia to New York City to dramatize the plight of child laborers. The march proved unsuccessful, but was it a failure? “HECK, NO!” Mother Jones assures readers. But Winter is careful to have Mother Jones state on the penultimate page that “the wheels of justice grind slowly” and that it took 40 more years of work to get laws changed. His protagonist/subject speaks with fervor in a folksy idiom with the occasional dropped G and a great many capital letters. Carpenter depicts Jones as an apple-cheeked, silver-haired white woman in full-length black dress, white lace collar, and an aura of indestructibility. There is racial diversity among both child marchers and onlookers.
A stellar introduction to an important and ongoing social issue. (author’s note, photographs, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)