Thursday, February 28, 2008

Book Review: Uprising

Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix. (Grades 6-10)

Okay, I've got to give mad props to Mary Lee over at A Year of Reading for her post that bumped this book up on my to-read list. Her heartfelt recommendation resulted in me grabbing this book off our shelves, like, the next day. And it was such a good decision!

Why did I like it so much?

1. It's set in a time period (1909-1911) that fascinates me.
2. It's about spunky girls. Three of them, in fact.
3. It's about three spunky girls who are very different from each other (but also very much the same).
4. It's about three girls that I pretty quickly came to care about.
5. There is a 15-page author's note. *swoon*

In 1909, Bella is new to America. She came over from Italy where her family is starving. Since she's the oldest child, she made her way to the Land of Golden Opportunity in order to send money back to her small Italian village and save her family. Bella's got a lot going against her. She doesn't speak any English. The only person she knows in America is a distant cousin, Pietro. And she knows she's her family's only hope. When Pietro gets her a job working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, she's grateful. All she wants to do is work hard, earn money, and save her family. Which is why it's so frustrating that the factory bosses treat them so abysmally, making them work without breaks, charging them for broken needles, searching them as they leave to make sure they're not stealing shirtwaists...

Yetta, for one, is not going to put up with the abuse any more. She's also a young girl working at Triangle. Yetta's from Russia and she moved to America to join her sister who fled Russia fearing persecution for her socialist tendencies. Yetta and Rahel are committed to fighting the factory bosses. They want a strike. They want a union. And Yetta will stop at nothing to make a difference.

Jane, on the other hand, isn't even aware of the strike or the poor condition of the factory workers. She's from a wealthy American family and the most that's expected of her is to marry well so she can put on pretty dresses and serve tea to a group of insipidly boring women. Jane feels trapped in her gilded cage until one day she meets Eleanor, a student at Vassar who tries to enlist Jane in the fight for women's rights. Jane begins to drive down to the factories to observe the strikers. Although her father doesn't approve, Jane feels like she's being called to help... if only she knew how.

These three very different young women come together and eventually form a strong friendship. And then all three are involved in the tragic fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.

It's a moving story that highlights an impassioned period in American history. I have to say that, although I knew about the Triangle fire, I really knew nothing about the strikes that happened beforehand. I found all the characters to be very believable and very accessible. Haddix really transported me back to the time and I couldn't put the book down. (Although I have to admit that I thought it dragged a little bit at the end... but then I'm rarely into the present-characters-looking-back-to-their-past angle...)

You can find more blog reviews at A Patchwork of Books and Sara's Holds Shelf.

If it's on your TBR list, I highly recommend bumping it up!