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Touched by Fire by Irene N. Watts
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Touched by Fire

by Irene N. Watts

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I really enjoy reading historical fiction, especially when a book makes me want to learn more about a historical event. This book was like that; I ended up wanting to know more about the "Triangle Waist Company" factory fire of 1911. This book helped me to catch a glimpse of what it may have been like for European immigrants to travel by boat to North America. And this book is very well written! It's a book that I would definitely recommend. ( )
  janeenv | Jan 28, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I had read several books about the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire previous to this one, and I'm ashamed to say I didn't expect quite as much out of this one compared to the previous books I'd already read. As it happens, my mom actually got a hold of it, (as she shares the main character's name) and actually got to read it before I did and she told me how wonderful it actually was.

The writing style reminded me of the old Dear America books I loved so much, and I was immensely impressed by the tender characterizations and the author's attention to historical detail. ( )
  FutureMrsJoshGroban | Aug 4, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This review includes spoilers for the entire book. Since this book is for younger readers and deals with tough subjects, I think parents (or any other adult choosing books for a child) should know about some key events in the story so they can decide whether it's appropriate for their child.

Touched by Fire tells the story of Miriam and her family, who flee Russian pogroms in the early 1900s and move to Germany before emigrating to the United States, where Miriam finds work at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company shortly before the infamous fire at their sweatshop.

The writing level seems aimed at about a 10-year-old's level, but this is a pretty tough subject for children that young, especially when it comes to the description of the fire. Miriam witnesses people jumping to their deaths to escape the burning building, and helps identify a friend's body after the other girl dies in the fire. The final chapter of the book moves forward in time to the 1930s, to Miriam's young nephew who is growing up in Nazi Germany. Miriam and her husband bring her nephew to the US to live with them, saving him from the Holocaust, but the descriptions of anti-Semitism are very disturbing (as they should be, if you're going to write about 1930s Germany) and may raise questions about the Holocaust.

It is well-written and interesting, but a lot of young readers would be disturbed by the subject matter. ( )
  lazybee | Mar 11, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I love historical fiction and have read several books about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Touched by Fire is definitely one of the best I have read. It follows family the immigrates to the United States and does a wonderful job of showing the condition they had to work in to survive. Very poignant and well written.
  meliarose | Dec 26, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Miriam and her family begin their journey to the "Golden Land" of America by leaving behind the pogroms in Russia in the early 1900's and moving to Berlin. Miriam's father travels to New York ahead of the rest of the family to earn money for their passage. Two years later, their tickets arrive, but Miriam's baby sister is sickly and her younger brother Yuri refuses to leave. After Yuri purposely fails a health examination before boarding the ship to America, Miriam begins her solo journey to a new land. Miriam describes being herded like cattle through numerous health examinations, miserable living conditions on board the ship, and a strange new life of freedom in New York. She of course makes new friends along the way and eventually becomes an employee at the Triangle Waist Company. Workers are searched on their way out, bosses manipulate the clocks to get the most time out of workers, and working conditions are not safe, but Miriam is glad to have a job and earn her own money. A fire tears through the factory and puts lives, including Miriam's in danger.

Touched by Fire focused on the long and difficult journey immigrants of the early 1900's faced and also gave a glimpse into factory working conditions at the time and the tragedy that occurred at the Triangle Waist Company where many workers perished. The description of the fire is powerful and heartbreaking. An interesting epilogue to Yuri's story is included at the end. Yuri's resistance in coming to America, even though he would face persecution in Russia and Germany, was a unique perspective to see in this type of story. A brief afterword is also included giving information about the Triangle fire and characters in the book who were real people. This will appeal to fans of historical fiction and Dear America type books. ( )
  purplethings | Dec 19, 2013 |
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Fleeing the pograms in Russia and European anti-Semitism, teenaged Miriam arrives in America only to face anti-immigrant discrimination before landing a job in a clothing factory and witnessing the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

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