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The Breaker Boys by Pat Hughes

The Breaker Boys

by Pat Hughes

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Author Pat Hughes writes this fictional account of the lives of coal miners and mine owners from the view of both. Her husband's ancestors were the Pardees who owned collieries and she is descended from Italian immigrants who worked the mines.

The writing style is somewhat rough, but the story is intriguing. The son of a wealthy family, who after his mother's death is angry at the world and unable to get along with anyone, by chance meets a miner's son who invites him to play baseball, starting a friendship. The impossibility of the situation becomes acute when a strike is called.

Pair this book with non-fiction books on child Labor (Growing up in Coal Country). It uses all the terms explained in the nonfiction work. A suggested companion text for middle school readers is Theodore Roosevelt: Letters from a Young Coal Miner by Jennifer Armstrong ( )
  kthomp25 | Apr 30, 2010 |
Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2004 (Vol. 72, No. 15))
Nate Tanner gets booted out of boarding school and comes home to Pennsylvania, where his wealthy father is a coal mine operator. When Nate makes friends with Johnny, a breaker boy, and discovers a plot against his father's company, Nate's loyalties are tested. Though readers learn a fair amount of history, this is really a story about truth and the difficulty of discerning it. "There are three sides to every story," Nate is told. "Y'rs, mine-and the truth." But when you're caught between a mine-owning father and a friend who's a mine worker in a time of labor unrest, where does the truth lie? Rooting her story in family history and on the Lattimer Massacre of 1897, Hughes writes simply, relying on solid dialogue to carry much of this fine work. Though the story comes almost full circle, with Nate heading back to boarding school, he is a different person and has affected the lives of those around him. A strong story of family and friendship, rooted in a fascinating period of American history. (author's note, glossary) 2004, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 256p, $18.00. Category: Fiction. Ages 9 to 13. © 2004 Kirkus Reviews
added by kthomp25 | editKirkus (Apr 30, 2010)
Hope Morrison (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October 2004 (Vol. 58, No. 2))
In the spring of 1897, hot-tempered Nate Tanner, son of a wealthy mine-owning Pennsylvania family, is expelled from boarding school and sent home for what proves to be a life-changing summer. Friendless and full of anger, Nate sets to taking long bike rides away from the family estate and meets Johnny, a Polish-American "breaker boy," who spends his days picking slate and wood from carts full of coal in one of the Tanner family's properties. Assuming a false identity, Nate starts playing baseball with Johnny and the other breaker boys, and he soon discovers the comfort of friendship he had never known. This friendship is, naturally, complicated by the secrecy and class issues underlying Nate's true background, and when talk of collective action and strike begins to surface among the boys, Nate is left wondering which side of the story is the more accurate one. His experience in the Polish slums where his friends live leads to a growing fury at his own family's treatment of the mine workers, a fury that surfaces in a confrontation with his grandpa. Basing her story upon the true events of the 1897 Lattimer Massacre, where nineteen coal miners were killed at the hands of the police, Hughes has created a compelling fictional narrative that illustrates the degree to which fact belongs to the perspective of the teller. Nate is a well-developed character and the waves of doubt, defensiveness, and self-knowing he experiences over the course of the summer are well-rooted in the events going on around him. Although the story is a bit slow going at first (Nate's anger-management issues make him a rather unlikable protagonist), those readers willing to stick it out will find this a complex novel, full of personal and class conflict and, ultimately, the violence of misunderstanding. A note and glossary of Polish terms are included. Review Code: R -- Recommended. (c) Copyright 2004, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2004, Farrar, 247p, $18.00. Grades 7-10.

added by kthomp25 | editThe Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Hope Morrison (Apr 21, 2010)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374309566, Hardcover)

The son of a wealthy Pennsylvania coal mine operator, Nate Tanner resents being shipped off to boarding school. Anger -- mainly at his father and stepmother -- is what gets him there and what prevents him from making friends. Then, in the spring of 1897, it gets him kicked out and sent home. To avoid his family, Nate disappears on his bicycle every day. In this way he meets the breaker boys, who do dangerous, dirty work for his father, separating coal from debris. Nate admires these Polish immigrants, especially Johnny, and longs to become his friend. But the only way is for Nate to hide that he is the boss's son. As Nate and Johnny's friendship marches toward the moment of truth, Nate discovers that the mine workers are plotting a strike. Should he warn his family or protect his friend?

This fascinating second novel features a hero who is blessed -- or cursed -- with the ability to see both sides of a painful issue and to accept that no one is impartial.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:45 -0400)

In 1897, Nate Tanner, the hot-tempered twelve-year-old son of wealthy Pennsylvania mine owners, goes against his father's wishes by befriending some of the boys who work in the mines and gets caught up in a disasterous clash between mine workers and the law.… (more)

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