Trouble brews in a small mining community when rumors of union organization spread.
It’s 1914 in Phippsburg, Colo. Julia, a young Italian immigrant, lives with her family in a derailed boxcar and attends fifth grade at the local one-room schoolhouse. Boss Parker runs the mine; his right-hand man keeps prices high at the only store in town; and the Parker children can do no wrong in the eyes of the school’s only teacher. The boxcars that Julia’s family and many other families live in, as well as the shacks across town, are all owned by the mine. Nobody wants to risk losing their jobs and their homes, especially during the harsh Colorado winters. Covering only two days in April 1914, Barone successfully portrays the life and issues of the era. When Julia uncovers a plot at the mine and tries to protect her father, a series of events ensue that lead to a sad but pleasantly unexpected ending. Building on actual historical accounts from her grandmother, Barone envisions how the miner’s strike and massacre in Ludlow would affect smaller mining towns. The reader feels the harsh cold of late winter, experiences the language barriers both adults and children faced, and understands the social stratifications based on wealth, national origin and gender present throughout the community. Although not as charming or as colorful as the American Girls series, readers may be reminded of those books as they are treated, in an appendix, to primary and secondary documents relating to the events. These pages could greatly benefit from more pictures and facts combined with the firsthand accounts given through articles and letters.
A good resource for use in upper elementary school classes, but the cover and layout may be less attractive to the casual reader.