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Trade Reviews

  Booklist Review

Many children may have heard of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in 1911, which killed 146 workers and ultimately spurred workplace safety reforms. But they may not know about the strike that occurred 13 months before. Haddix brings both events to life through the alternating voices of three young girls. Bella, 15, is newly emigrated from Italy; fiery Yetta, who fled Russian pogroms, is fiercely devoted to the union effort; Jane is the daughter of a wealthy businessman. The girls meet on picket lines where fashionable women have gathered to support the garment workers' cause. The characters are stock, and the historical information at first feels forced. These problems ease, however, as the story progresses: the various voices become more distinct, and the depiction of the factory and living conditions becomes appallingly vivid. A framing device, though somewhat heavy-handed, adds suspense and will keep readers turning the pages to discover which of the girls survives. An excellent author's note provides additional historical information.--Rutan, Lynn Copyright 2007 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

Three young women from different backgrounds experience the New York City Triangle Shirtwaist strike and fire of 1911. The story is told in flashbacks, which recount the treatment of hands in sweatshops culminating in the deaths of so many. Two of the workers are Bella, a young immigrant from the poverty of Southern Italy whose family was starving, and Jewish Yetta, from Russia after a pogrom. The rich young protected Jane becomes involved with the other two when a friend mentions that college girls (Jane is not in college because her father does not believe in educating women) will be walking the strike line with the workers. Here she becomes acquainted with the sewing machine girls. Thus, the reader has three viewpoints of the times, conditions and events as they coalesce in a story told by an omniscient narrator. Because of its length, the book requires a reader who can stick with it. Author's note and list of works consulted give a fair summary of the Triangle fire and the condition of laborers, immigrants and life in the tenements. (Historical fiction. 12+) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Around her the workers were screaming out prayers and curses.... She herself was sobbing tearlessly.... Her only prayer was still, "I don't want to die."<br> <br> Oh, please, God, don't let me die, she thought. I've never even had a chance to live. <br> <br> Bella, newly arrived in New York from Italy, gets a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. There, along with hundreds of other immigrants, she works long hours at a grueling job under terrible conditions. Yetta, a coworker from Russia, has been crusading for a union, and when factory conditions worsen, she helps workers rise up in a strike. Wealthy Jane learns of the plight of the workers and becomes involved with their cause.<br> <br> Bella and Yetta are at work -- and Jane is visiting the factory -- on March 25, 1911, when a spark ignites some cloth and the building is engulfed in fire, leading to one of the worst workplace disasters ever.<br> <br> Margaret Peterson Haddix draws on extensive historical research to bring the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire to tangible life through her thrilling story of Bella, Yetta, and Jane.
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