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Grape Thief by Kristine L. Franklin
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Grape Thief (2003)

by Kristine L. Franklin

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Some SPOILERS: Set in Roslyn, WA. Slava Petrovich is a 7th grader in a Croatian family. His older brothers Matt and Joey work in the mines to support their widowed mother. Mine work is the money-maker for much of the town. One night Slava witnesses Matt and Joey confronting the man that was courting their sister Mary. The man dies when he falls and hits his head against a wall. Turns out the man has bootlegger connections and Matt and Joey could be in real trouble. One day Matt and Joey are gone, to pursue work in logging further west. Slava, his mother and younger brother Phillip struggle to keep the home afloat. Slava loves school but realizes he may have to leave it to work and support the family. When Phillip becomes seriously ill and loses his hearing, Slava realizes the burden on him to support the family especially now that Matt and Joey have married. He decides to jump the grape train to California with his friends as Matt and Joey did and find better-paying work. But jumping the train isn't a decision that Slava is comfortable with and he jumps off to return to Roslyn. All ends up well when Father Duval announces that Slava has earned a full scholarship to St. Martin's Academy.
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
I really liked this book. It brought the issue of Prohibition to bear on the lives of immigrants who liked to brew their own beer and wine. The hardship of making it illegal to make or sell alcohol was an additional burden on struggling newcomers.
Coal mining was at the center of this book, but not much of the story was about the actual work. Slava's two brothers leave town and work in and orchard. One interesting detail was that the widow, Slava's mother, owned her own home. Most of these stories have company owned homes. ( )
  kthomp25 | Mar 18, 2011 |
Franklin catches the feel of turn of the century mixed ethnic communities recruited to work in America's coal mines. Racial, ethnic and class boundaries divide the town and those in power routinely use it to their own advantage notwithstanding the hardship it rains down on those below. This makes those that defy those lines, including the protagonist, memorable. The story is complex and realistic enough to engage both the YA target audience as well as adults. ( )
  BarnOwlPress | Oct 19, 2008 |
This book is about a 12-year-old boy named Slava who lives in a coal mining town in Washington State. His nickname is Cuss because he has the strange talent of being able to say bad words in several different languages. The story is set in the 1920’s. Cuss must make a choice between going to school and going to work in the mines to support his widowed mother and little brother.

This story has literary element of Person Against Society and Person Against Self and provides a timeless lesson about making choices and helping others in a historical background.

Because Cuss and the other miners are all immigrants an extension activity could be to have students create a family tree (with the help of relatives) that show the many different places and different jobs the past members of their families had.

To illustrate understanding of the “Big Idea” of the story students could create a storyboard showing how all the characters and themes relate to Cuss and each other.
  mkeenan | Jun 18, 2008 |
n 1925, in a small Washington State community made up of families from different ethnic backgrounds, twelve-year-old Cuss tries to stay in school as he watches those around him struggle with various financial difficulties. ( )
  Catnelson | Dec 12, 2006 |
Showing 5 of 5
Karen Coats (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September 2003 (Vol. 57, No. 1))
1925 in Roslyn, Washington, sees hard times for the Europeans who have come to work the mines, since decreased demand for coal is causing layoffs and mobsters from Seattle are trying to take over smaller bootlegging operations. After Slava’s brothers hop the grape train to Napa, California, and plentiful work, Slava is left to take care of his mother and little brother, responsibilities that endanger his future at school. Life continues with a wedding for Slava’s sister, Mary, and a serious illness that leaves his younger brother, Philip, deaf, resulting in expenses that may lead to the loss of the family home. Yearning to find real work so that he can help his mother, he and his friend Perks, an African-American boy who has similar dreams, hatch a plan to follow Slava’s brothers to California where they are sure they will succeed. Franklin paints a compassionate and detailed picture of first-generation American family life, warmly depicting the stubborn faith of mothers and the equally stubborn love of sons. Slava is dedicated to his family and his idea of what a man should be, even as he is resolutely a boy with a boy’s awkwardness, fear, and bravado. The book substantially conveys the force of family members and friends strongly committed to each other; a combination of well-drawn, likable characters and genuine narrative suspense keeps the reader involved to the end. Review Code: R -- Recommended. (c) Copyright 2003, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2003, Candlewick, 295p, $16.99. Grades 5-9.

added by kthomp25 | editThe Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Karen Coats
 
Christy Oestreich (Children's Literature)
Travel back to 1925 into the diverse ethnic community of Roslyn, Washington, with a young boy named Slava whose nickname is "Cuss." Slava narrates a turning point in his life in this uplifting and genuinely heartfelt fiction novel. His family has traveled from Europe to live in America and work in the coal mines. Cuss is very responsible, loves his family and being a schoolboy, and he manages to have a lot of fun with his friends. He creates a plan to pull off the greatest "grape heist" in history, from the grape train when it comes to town. Instead of reaching his goal of grabbing the most grapes, Cuss witnesses his brothers involved with something that makes him grow up quickly and change the way he looks at life forever. Next thing he knows his brothers have left town, leaving only a note telling him to stay in school, not to worry about them because they are going to be okay, and for him to look after their mama and younger brother Philip and sister Mary. Soon the summer ends and Cuss is back in school with a grand opportunity to learn Latin from the town's priest, which he soaks up like a sponge. As the year moves on, his sister Mary gets married, he hears from his brothers that they are doing well, Philip is infected with meningitis that leaves him with little hearing and money is tight everywhere. Cuss finds a way to help out his whole family, but some unforgivable actions cause him battles within; then he learns the importance of forgiveness through a valuable lesson. He finds himself continuing to reach for his dreams and realizing that the strength and love of his family is unbreakable. This book creates a sense for the reader that he or she is actually witnessing the joys, trials and tribulations of a young boy. It is a great read for both boys and girls, not too heavy or overwhelming, yet realistic. The book would also be beneficial for a classroom reading program, based on its ending. 2003, Candlewick Press, $16.99. Ages 12 to 15.

added by kthomp25 | editChildren's Literature, Christy Oestreich
 
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To the memory of my paternal grandparents, Andrija and Uljana Brozovich, born subjects of the emperor of Austria and Hungary; died free citizens of the United States of America - K.L.F.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0763613258, Hardcover)

With refreshing honesty, heart, and humor - and a compelling young narrator - the author of the award-winning LONE WOLF takes readers back to 1925, and a place where a boy must become a man all too soon.


It’s 1925 in multiethnic Roslyn, Washington, and twelve-year-old Slava has earned the nickname "Cuss" because he can swear in fourteen languages. In fact, Cuss loves languages, period: unlike his older brothers, who left school after sixth grade to work in the coal mines, he likes reading about as much as he likes goofing around with his friends - or planning the great grape heist of Roslyn. But when bootleggers stir up trouble and force his big brothers to skip town, Cuss feels the weight of family responsibility dropping onto his shoulders. How can he hold on to his dream to stay in school - and still do the honorable thing by his ma and little brother?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:59 -0400)

In 1925, in a small Washington State community made up of families from different ethnic backgrounds, twelve-year-old Cuss tries to stay in school as he watches those around him struggle with various financial difficulties.

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Candlewick Press

An edition of this book was published by Candlewick Press.

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