School Library Journal
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Gr 4-8-A vivid and compelling look at the lives of Pennsylvania's immigrant coal miners and their families at the turn of the last century. Anetka, a resourceful Polish girl, is ordered by her father to come to America and marry a man she has never met. At 14, she becomes a miner's wife and the stepmother of three young daughters. The hardships and dangers of life in a mining camp, recorded in diary format, are balanced by the tenderness, friendship, and romance touching Anetka's life. Details of beekeeping and never-ending household chores will win readers' respect for the homemakers of 100 years ago. A glossary of Polish words, maps, music, period photographs, and a staple of recipes add substance to the setting. An "Epilogue" chronicling the characters' lives after the story's close may confuse children, particularly since it's followed by a historical note that describes the characters as fictional. Still, Bartoletti paints an accessible and evocative picture of life in a harsh era.-Valerie Diamond, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Gr. 5^-9. The history is dramatic: in 1896 Anetka Kaminska, 13, must leave her Polish village for an arranged marriage with a coal miner in Lattimer, Pennsylvania. Her husband, who was married once before, doesn't love her, and when he's killed in a mining accident a few months after the wedding, she's left to care for his three small daughters and take in boarders to survive. The appalling working conditions in the mines are an integral part of the story and so is the labor struggle for change. Always there's the racism by "Americans" toward the "undesirable foreigners," which culminates in the Lattimer Massacre in which 19 miners are killed. The lively young union organizer, Leon Nasevich, who proves to be Anetka's true love, is just too perfect, but their teasing relationship adds romance to the grim story. The real problem with this book is the format. There's no doubt that the diary entries from the young person's viewpoint make the story immediate and accessible; but it's totally ridiculous that Anetka, who works like a mule caring for the kids and the boarders, and who regrets that she can't find a minute to write a letter to her beloved grandmother in Poland, would keep a daily diary of her life. Bartoletti's long historical note authenticates the account of the immigration, the labor struggle, the massacre, and the role of strong women. And there's a selection of photos to reinforce the history. --Hazel Rochman