A REAL AMERICAN by Richard Easton


Age Range: 9 - 11
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Nathan McClelland, a farm boy, becomes the only native-born American of his age when his long-time neighbors move elsewhere. It’s 1890 and his neighboring Pennsylvania farmland is being converted to coal mines as the farm houses are pulled down and the wood is used for shoddy buildings to house the immigrant workers. He meets an Italian boy, Arturo, who, with his father and brother, works underground. They become friends of a sort and Nathan sets about to make Arturo a “real American” by trying to impose his culture, food, and habits on the young miner. The author provides a sharp picture of the dangers of mining and the maltreatment of miners as well as a look at anti-foreign prejudice, a sentiment with a contemporary hook. A gang moves to destroy the shacks and the foreigners but Nathan distracts them and the shantytown is saved. But faults hurt the story line: Arturo’s English, despite the use of Italian at home and among the other immigrants, is far too good. The added plot element of Nathan’s father’s lethargic depression because of the death of another son, mars plot development. Those who are prejudiced are all painted as dirty, mean, cruel, ill-mannered, or stupid. Only Nathan, Arturo, and Nathan’s mother are not one-dimensional. Too bad the story is mired in its stylistic faults; it might have carried an important message. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 22nd, 2002
ISBN: 0-618-13339-9
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Clarion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2002


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