Children's Books

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APRIL 13, 2011
Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop
Historical fiction at its most effective is seen in this novel which adeptly blends factual events with the imagined life of Grace Forcier.  She is a twelve-year-old French-Canadian immigrant forced by her family's poverty-stricken circumstances to work, even though legally underage, in a Vermont textile mill.  Aided by the teacher provided by the mill owners to teach in the village school, Grace and a classmate write a letter exposing conditions to the National Child Labor Committee which is investigating labor abuse.  Soon a Mr. Lewis Hine appears with a notebook full of questions about the mill's young employees and with a Graflex camera with which he documents the horrid conditions in which children - some under nine or ten - are forced to work. (Mr. Hine actually lived and pursued the truth about child labor.)  Meanwhile, in secret Grace continues her studies, thus inspiring others to do the same.  The reader is left to work out for him or herself whether or not she manages to rise above the depressing circumstances in the mill town where she lives.  For an engrossing way to learn some of the history of the early years of the twentieth century, middle and junior high school readers will appreciate this fictional account of the life of a young mill worker.

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