Labor and labor movements booklist

In honor of May Day, we kicked off the month with #HBMayDay17, a week of labor movement–inspired featured reviews:

Later, we revisited the subject with a section of recommended nonfiction in Nonfiction Notes. We're wrapping up the month of May with this comprehensive list including those titles as well as many others recognizing the struggles of workers and their efforts to secure better working conditions for all.

The following books were recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide at the time of their publication; reviews are reprinted from The Horn Book Guide Online.


Adler, David A. and Adler, Michael S.  A Picture Book of César Chávez
32 pp.     Holiday     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-8234-2202-9

Illustrated by Marie Olofsdotter. Using quotes from their subject's autobiography, the Adlers tell an abbreviated life story of César Chávez, from migrant farm work in childhood through his life of activism to his death in 1993. Olofsdotter's warm-hued illustrations reflect the man's heritage and commitment to his cause. The book's source notes and other ancillary material are excellent. Timeline, websites. Bib.

Brown, Monica  Side by Side / Lado a lado: The Story of Dolores Huerta and César Chavéz / La historia de Dolores Huerta y César Chávez
32 pp.     HarperCollins/Rayo     2010
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-122781-3

Illustrated by Joe Cepeda. Translated by Carolina Valencia. Brown makes a significant contribution to the increasing number of books about César Chávez by focusing equally on his partner, Dolores Huerta. Their life stories are told in parallel until they meet and "side by side...began their journey." Huerta's accomplishments are admirable, and she gets her due in this heartfelt bilingual volume enhanced by Cepeda's emotion-filled mixed-media illustrations.

Kulling, Monica  On Our Way to Oyster Bay: Mother Jones and Her March for Children's Rights [CitizenKid series]
32 pp.     Kids Can     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-77138-325-7

Illustrated by Felicita Sala. This historical picture book introduces activist "Mother" Jones, who in 1903 led an over-one-hundred-mile march to President Theodore Roosevelt's summer home to protest child labor. Focusing on fictional eight-year-old Aidan, a cotton mill worker, the long days of walking, camping out, and rallying are portrayed as an adventurous undertaking that shed light on children's rights. Old-timey paintings capture grandmotherly Jones's feistiness. Author's note appended. Websites.

Krull, Kathleen  Harvesting Hope: The Story of César Chávez
48 pp.     Harcourt     2003
Trade ISBN 0-15-201437-3

Illustrated by Yuyi Morales. Showing how Chávez developed into an advocate and spokesman for migrant workers, Krull focuses on the march he led as part of a grape-pickers strike. The brief text creates a complex view of Chávez, and the mixed-media paintings are suffused with a variety of emotions. There are no sources, but this is an excellent choice for furthering understanding of racism, of nonviolent protest, and of the lives of workers before unions.

Lyon, George Ella  Which Side Are You On?: The Story of a Song
40 pp.     Cinco Puntos     2011
Trade ISBN 978-1-933693-96-5

Illustrated by Christopher Cardinale. The narrator of this fictionalized tale lives in Kentucky “in a coal company house on coal company land…[Pa] says the company owns us sure as sunrise.” When company thugs harass the family, Ma, unfazed, scribbles words for the song that would become the union anthem. Lyon’s text captures the family’s sympathetic plight while Cardinale’s woodcuts display drama and energy. Author’s note. Bib.

Markel, Michelle  Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909
32 pp.     HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-180442-7

Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. In her simple but powerful text, Markel shows how multiple arrests, physical attacks, and misogyny failed to deter Clara Lemlich as she set off on her lifelong path as a union activist in the early twentieth century. Clara's story is accentuated by Sweet's vivid illustrations, many of which are presented on fabric scraps or torn paper with borders of machine stitching. Bib.



Atkin, S. Beth  Voices from the Fields: Children of Migrant Farmworkers Tell Their Stories
96 pp.     Little, Brown     2000
Trade ISBN 0-316-05633-2

The attractive presentation features children and teenagers of migrant workers, depicted in black-and-white photographs, speaking about family experiences, work, gangs, friends, and assorted fears, hopes, and dreams. Poetry by the young people, printed in both English and Spanish, is interspersed among the interviews. Bib.

Farrell, Mary Cronk Fannie Never Flinched: One Woman's Courage in the Struggle for American Labor Union Rights
48 pp.     Abrams     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-4197-1884-7

Garment-factory seamstress Fannie Sellins became a leader of the labor movement and "an angel of mercy" for striking workers' families. She was killed in 1919 when police turned clubs and rifles against protesters. Farrell relates the story of this extraordinary activist with deft pacing and relatable anecdotes; an engaging layout includes copious photos and primary source clippings. Reading list, timeline, websites. Bib., glos., ind.

Jiménez, Francisco  The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child
116 pp.     Houghton     1999
Trade ISBN 0-395-97902-1

New ed (1997, Univ. of New Mexico). Originally published only in paperback, this is the first hardcover edition of the moving and transcendent book that won the 1998 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for fiction; the appended author's note is from Jiménez's acceptance speech for that award. Look for sequels Reaching Out, Breaking Through, and Taking Hold.

Otfinoski, Steven  The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: Core Events of an Industrial Disaster
32 pp.     Capstone     2014
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4765-4183-9
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4765-5132-6
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4765-5981-0

Fact Finders: What Went Wrong? series. This brief overview of the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire contains a wealth of gripping details. The swift narrative begins with the blaze that ultimately killed 146 people, and ends with the development of new laws regulating working conditions. Eerie black-and-white photos of structural damage and victims illustrate the magnitude of the destruction, while sidebars expand on the information. Reading list. Glos., ind.

Paterson, Katherine  Bread and Roses, Too
275 pp.     Clarion     2006
Trade ISBN 0-618-65479-8

This tale is about two children caught up in the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Jake labors in the textile mills, and Rosa goes to school while her mother and sister toil. Both Jake and Rosa are unwilling coattail participants in the labor action. The themes (e.g., children forced by circumstance to an unnatural self-reliance) are familiar — but nobody does them better.

Ryan, Pam Munoz  Esperanza Rising
262 pp.     Scholastic     2000
Trade ISBN 0-439-12041-1

In this poignant look at the realities of immigration, thirteen-year-old Esperanza, daughter of an affluent Mexican rancher, is forced to trade fancy dolls and dresses for hard work and ill-fitting hand-me-downs after her beloved father dies. Laboring in the United States, picking grapes on someone else's land for pennies an hour, Esperanza is transformed into someone who can take care of herself and others.



Baker, Julie  The Bread and Roses Strike of 1912
160 pp.     Morgan     2007
Library binding ISBN 978-1-59935-044-8

American Workers series. This intelligent, well-documented account of the 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts, strike pitting factory laborers against mill owner William Wood uses considerable primary material to tell how Industrial Workers of the World organizers advanced the workers' cause. Violence, deaths, Congressional investigations, and other disturbances ensued before the landmark strike succeeded. Well-captioned photos illustrate the text. Timeline, websites. Bib., ind.

Brimner, Larry Dane  Strike!: The Farm Workers' Fight for Their Rights
172 pp.     Boyds/Calkins    2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-59078-997-1

Brimner's comprehensive history recounts the movement for better wages and working conditions among migrant farm workers in the Southwest, from California's burgeoning need for farm workers in the twentieth century to the story of César Chávez, the United Farm Workers of America, and the Delano grape workers' strike. The compelling narrative includes both textual and visual primary sources. Reading list, timeline, websites. Ind.

Crowder, Melanie  Audacity
389 pp.     Philomel     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-399-16899-4

This gripping historical verse novel is based on the life of Clara Lemlich, a Russian Jewish immigrant who worked tirelessly to help unionize and establish rights for fellow young women factory employees in the early twentieth century. Clara's driven and emotional voice radiates strength amid her doubts, fears, conflicts, and conviction to create a more equal world for women.

Engle, Margarita  Lion Island: Cuba's War of Words
163 pp.     Atheneum    2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-6112-2
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-6114-6

Engle (The Poet Slave of Cuba and companions) tells of nineteenth-century Cuba's Chinese indentured workers through Antonio Chuffat, a Chinese African Cuban boy who wants desperately to help the laborers seeking freedom from the indenture system; through his job as a messenger, he learns firsthand that words have power. Engle again weaves fiction and fact to create a lyrical tale. Reading list. Bib.

Engle, Margarita  Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal
260 pp.     Houghton     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-544-10941-4

In melodic verses, Engle offers the voices of the dark-skinned workers (known as the "silver people"), whose backbreaking labor helped build the Panama Canal, along with the perspective of a local girl. Interspersed are occasional echoes from flora and fauna as well as cameo appearances by historical figures. Together, they provide an illuminating picture of the project's ecological sacrifices and human costs. Bib.

Young, Jeff C.  César Chávez
160 pp.      Morgan      2007
Library binding ISBN 978-1-59935-036-3

American Workers series. This thorough, well-documented biography recounts Chávez's progression from fieldworker in California to activist, union organizer, and civil rights advocate. Chávez's untiring efforts, extremely modest salary, refusal to back down, hunger strikes, and growing awareness of political process are emphasized, with the United Farm Workers Union as his crowning achievement. Considerable primary material is used, and captioned photographs illustrate the text. Timeline, websites. Bib., ind.


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