Counting on Grace
Best for ages: 8-12
Library of Congress Descriptor: Twelve-year-old Grace Forcier and her friend Arthur, taken out of school and put to work in a Vermont textile mill in 1910, are championed by their teacher who urges them to write the National Child Labor Committee, an action only Grace seems to realize will have serious repercussions.
Type of Book: Chapter/Fiction
Twelve-year-olds Grace and Arthur are the best students in their one-room school in Pownal, Vermont just after the turn of the century. So their teacher, Miss Lesley, is more upset than usual when they are pulled out of school to join the many children already working in the textile mill to help support their families. Grace accepts this as the norm, but Arthur is angry and frustrated, determined to find a way to escape the mill.
Secretly, Miss Lesley begins giving them lessons on Sundays, their one day off. And she encourages them to write to the National Child Labor Committee about their mill. The NCLC sends Lewis Hines to photograph and document the children working in the mill. But as time goes by, and nothing seems to change, Arthur becomes increasingly withdrawn and angry, until he decides to take drastic measures.
Includes author's notes about Lewis Hines, his photo (on the cover) that inspired the story, and references.
This fascinating and, at times, horrifying story will open kids' eyes to what the lives of children in America could be like not all that many years ago. Now required reading throughout the state of Vermont, COUNTING ON GRACE is based on the true story of photographer Lewis Hines's crusade to reveal the realities of child labor to the public, and was inspired by one of his photos, showing a young girl with a haunting expression, dressed in rather filthy clothing, standing in front of a spinning frame.
The author does not pull any punches here: actions have consequences, lives are altered and sometimes shattered, and things don't turn out the way anyone in the story hopes, though there are signs in the end of a brighter future for Grace. This compelling and very readable fact-based story about a time with parallels to our own will interest children in a part of history they may not have heard much about in school. -- Matt Berman
The door opens. French Johnny pokes his head in first, almost like a little kid asking permission. He went to this school himself. He knows how hard the benches can be after a day of sitting. He knows every hook by the door and the way the handle of the coal stove wriggles out and slams to the floor when someone ain't paying mind. French Johnny is the second hand at the mill. He's in charge of the spinning room where my mother runs six frames. He's come up the hill in his white apron to get a mill rat. That's what they call the kids who work in the mill. We all end up as mill rats.
Language: Damned used once.
Violence: A boy has his hand mangled and two fingers cut off by a machine. An old man is killed trying to board a moving train.