Sunday, June 09, 2013

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This non-fiction picture book by Michelle Markel is a fascinating and important look at an era of America’s history that saw the rise of the labor movement and life-saving changes in worker’s conditions. Told through the eyes of young Clara Lemlich, a recent immigrant who finds work in the garment industry, this is a story of one young girl’s struggle to make a difference in the world. With her father unable to find work, it’s up to Clara to help support the family. When she gets a job stitching blouses in a garment factory, her eyes are opened to the unsafe and unfair working conditions that women (and men) of the day were forced to endure. For example: if you pricked you’re finger and bled on the cloth, you were fired; if you were a few minutes late you lost half a day’s pay; the doors were locked and every night the workers were searched to make sure they hadn't stolen anything; three hundred girls had to share two toilets. Disgusted by these unfair practices, Clara urges the other girls to fight for their rights. This is a book about standing up for what you believe in, not backing down and showing the courage of your convictions. These are lessons that shouldn’t be forgotten and are as important today as they were one hundred years ago when this story takes place. The story is beautifully complimented by Melissa Sweet’s mixed media illustrations that combine watercolor and gouache with collaged and stitched pieces of cloth and torn paper.

One of Melissa Sweet's mixed media illustrations

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