Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Maker's Strike of 1909

Melissa Sweet sure has been busy!  She illustrated last year's nonfiction picture book CYBILS winner: Mrs. Harkness and the Panda which was one of two nominees last year along with "Balloons Over Broadway" and there are two nominees in the Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction category as well: A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin and Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 is written by Michelle Markel whose book, "The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau" was also nominated in the nonfiction picture book category for a CYBILS award last year.  Michelle and Melissa bring to life the famous garment worker's strike of 1909.  This book reminds me of why I absolutely love reading all of the amazing nonfiction on the shelves for our young readers today.  Brave Girl takes a moment in our country's history when workers as young as 12 stood up for their rights and changed the way business was done in America - for the better!  Photographs from 1909 are powerful, of course, but Melissa Sweet's illustration of young women hunched over sewing machines crowded into a room with overseers yelling to work faster is remarkable.  

The story is also timely when unions and workers are under attack in the media.  As a teacher, I often hear the sentiment, "I support teachers, but not teacher's unions."  Who, exactly, do they think are in teacher's unions?  Likewise, Brave Girl highlights exactly what was being fought for - safe and healthy working conditions.  Like Esperanza Rising and Kira Kira, Brave Girl helps young readers to understand unions in the context of the history.

The text also tells the story but left me with questions.  The kind of questions that would lead me to further reading.  The BEST kinds of questions.  For example, Clara's father could not find work.  Was it because of his immigrant status?  I can make assumptions, but even better would be to turn to one of the resources from the Selected Bibliography.  The section titled "More about the Garment Industry" tells that the Triangle Waist Factory was one that would not negotiate and I can infer from the illustrations that Clara did work there.  I want to know more.  Books that leave the reader wanting more kindle a passion for learning.  Brave Girl does just that.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909
ISBN: 978-0-06-180442-7
Published 2013 by Balzer + Bray
I borrowed this copy from my library to read and review.

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