Growing Up in Coal Country. By Susan Campbell Bartoletti. 2 CDs. 2:18 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2012. ISBN 978-1-4558-5821-7. $49.97.
Gr 5-8--In eight chapters divided into various aspects of coal miner culture and job types (nipper, breaker boy, spragger, and mule driver were the typical jobs for children), Bartoletti recounts (Houghton Mifflin, 1996) life in Northeastern Pennsylvania coal country around the turn of the 19th century utilizing oral history and archival documents. Although the focus is on the lives of children, first-hand accounts of adults who remember life as child laborers or miner's daughters help to tell the story. Only the forward indicating her family's mining connection gives a slight indication as to the author's viewpoint about the industry. As in her award-winning Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow (Scholastic, 2005), Bartoletti's approach is devoid of bias or sensationalism. No embellishment is needed for the stories of men crushed so badly by cave-ins that they were scraped off the mine floors with shovels, children secretly sabotaging company equipment to ensure a day at the circus, young boys losing fingers and limbs in accidents, boys playing with homemade baseballs and engaging in strikes, and mine owners who valued mules over men. The clear, no-frills delivery by Suzanne Toren is perfectly suited to Bartoletti's style. The joy, the horror, the tenacity, the valor, the perseverance, and the loyalty of children growing up in coal country is presented, allowing listeners to form their own opinions. The only thing that could make this powerful audiobook even better would be the inclusion of the compelling black-and-white photos from the print version. With the current focus on Common Core Standards, this outstanding nonfiction selection fits the bill.
Listen to an audio excerpt from Growing Up in Coal Country on the publisher's website.
(What? We're supposed to have spare time?)