Growing Up in Coal Country

Growing Up in Coal Country
Growing Up in Coal Country

by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
HMH Books for Young Readers, 1999
paperback: 978-0395979143
128 pages, ages 10 to 12

a companion book to:

About the Book

Inspired by my in-laws’ recollections of working in coal country, I gathered the voices of men, women, and children who immigrated to and worked in northeastern Pennsylvania at the turn of the century. The story that emerges is not just a story of long hours, little pay, and hazardous working conditions; it is also the uniquely American story of immigrant families working together to make a new life for themselves. It is a story of hardship and sacrifice, yet also of triumph and the fulfillment of hopes and dreams.

Awards and Recognition

  • ALA Book of Distinction
  • ALA Notable
  • ALA Best Book for Young Adults
  • Booklist Editor’s Choice
  • Golden Kite Award for Nonfiction
  • Jane Addams Children’s Book Award
  • NCTE Recommended Title
  • NCSS Notable Book in the Field of Social Studies
  • Pennsylvania Carolyn Field Award
  • Parent’s Gold Choice Award

Reviews

 They show what it was like for eight-year-old breaker boys sorting coal surrounded by deafening noise and black clouds of dust, steam, and smoke; what it was like to be a mule driver underground; what it meant to be a spragger, a butty, a nipper. Drawing on personal interviews, archival tapes and transcripts, and a wide range of historical resources, Bartoletti finds heartfelt memories of long hours, hard labor, and extremely dangerous working conditions, as well as lighter accounts of spirited rebellion, mischief, and bonding. The immigrant experience is an integral part of this “coal culture”: the strength of ethnic groups and the prejudice against them, and their banding together to form strong labor unions. As with most fine juvenile nonfiction, this will also have great appeal for adults. (Booklist, starred review)

Bartoletti uses oral history, archival documents, and an abundance of black-and-white photographs to make turn-of-the-century mining life a surprisingly compelling subject for today’s young people. (School Library Journal, starred review)

Bartoletti has written a concise, thoroughly researched account of the often grim working and living conditions in Pennsylvania coal towns. An accessible writing style, as well as the abundance of stimulating information, makes for an engrossing historical account. Quotes from personal interviews with miners, as well as taped interviews and transcripts, provide a refreshing first person frame of reference. (The Horn Book, starred review)

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The paperback of Growing Up in Coal Country is available from your favorite independent bookseller, your public library, or these online retailers:

Growing Up in Coal Country

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The audio book of Growing Up in Coal Country is available from your favorite independent bookseller, your public library, or these online retailers:

Growing Up in Coal Country