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Which Side Are You On?: The Story of a Song…
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Which Side Are You On?: The Story of a Song (2011)

by George Ella Lyon

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I first heard the protest song Which Side Are You On? from singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant back in 2000 when she toured the U.S. singing folk songs. Her tour was unique given the fact she wasn't supporting an album (that came later), the songs were all but forgotten British and American folk tunes, and audiences were treated to a history lesson with almost every song. Florence Reese's "Which Side Are You On?" became one of my favorite.

Of course, no one knows Ms. Reese's true story and her lyrics have changed over time, but George Ella Lyon's book (with illustrations by Christopher Cardinale) is entertaining and informative for children and adults alike. I especially liked the author note and bibliography. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Sep 7, 2016 |
Coal miners struggle for a union and get shot at by the company for trying to unionize. How frightening it can be to stand up for what's right and fair. The family is under the gun, literally being shot at in their home when the "Ma" writes a song about the sides that people are on. Thugs or the union? A photo of the lady at age 85 is on the last page. ( )
  1derlys | Apr 22, 2013 |
Great story about Florence Reece, the wife of a coal miner, who wrote the classic union song in the midst of the bloody confrontation between company's hired guns and miners trying to organize in Harlan County, Kentucky. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
Miners went on strike for Union rights in Kentucky in 1931. This story describes how the Reese family faced hardship and bullets in their fight for a Union. Ma Reese wrote a song which later became a famous Union chat. This beautifully illustrated book would be a great way to introduce the topic of miners and/or Labor Unions to students. ( )
  ashoemak | Jan 17, 2013 |
This book was educational in how it explains the begining of labor unions and how they came to be from a song written to unite miners to stand up for their rights. The illustrations are superb and show the details of what may have happened during this moment in history.
  gallenor | Jan 18, 2012 |
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In Memory of Florence Reece (1900-1986) and Hazel Dickens (1935-2011)
For the people of Harlan County and for all who sing out for justice, especially Jean Ritchie, the Reel World String Band, Jessie Lynne, Jason, Silas, Anne & Kate -- G.E.L.
For the workers, organizers, their families, and friends who have taken a stand to protect our right to labor and live with dignity



For my son, Macéo, who will inherit the fruits of this struggle -- C.C.
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My Pa is a miner.
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Library Media Connection Reviews 2012 May/June
Website: http://www.linworth.com
In 1931, Harlan County, Kentucky, Sam Reece has organized a union, and the coal company is trying to stop its strike. His wife, Florence, writes a protest song, which Sam assures her will be good for rallying the protestors. This picture book, with its woodcut illustrations, is based on these actual events. Different versions of the song can still be heard today. The author's note details conditions in coal mines in Kentucky, strikes, and the efforts of unions to gain better working conditions for miners. Though well done, this book would have a limited audience. Ann M.G. Gray, Library Media Specialist, Pittsburg (New Hampshire) School. ADDITIONAL SELECTION. Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
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"Which Side Are You On? tells the story of a song which was written in 1931 by Florence Reece in a rain of bullets. Florence's husband Sam was a coal miner in Kentucky. Miners went on strike until they could get better pay, safer working conditions, and health care. The company hired thugs to attack the organizers like Sam Reece. Writer George Ella Lyon tells this hair-raising story through the eyes of one of Florence's daughters, a dry-witted pig-tailed gal, whose vantage point is from under the bed with her six brothers and sisters. The thugs' bullets hit the thin doors and windows of the company house, the kids lying low wonder whether they're going to make it out of this alive, wonder exactly if this strike will make their lives better or end them, but their mother keeps scribbling and singing. "We need a song," she tells her kids. That's not at all what they think they need."--… (more)

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