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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.
The fire at the Triangle Waist Company in New York City, which claimed the lives of 146 young immigrant workers, is one of the worst disasters since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and the disaster, which brought attention to the labor movement in America, is part of the curriculum in classrooms throughout the country.<br> <br> Told from alternating points of view, this historical novel draws upon the experiences of three very different young women: Bella, who has just emigrated from Italy and doesn't speak a word of English; Yetta, a Russian immigrant and crusader for labor rights; and Jane, the daughter of a wealthy businessman. Bella and Yetta work together at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory under terrible conditions--their pay is docked for even the slightest mistake, the bosses turn the clocks back so closing time is delayed, and they are locked into the factory all day, only to be frisked before they leave at night to make sure they haven't stolen any shirtwaists. When the situation worsens, Yetta leads the factory's effort to strike, and she meets Jane on the picket line. Jane, who feels trapped by the limits of her own sheltered existence, joins a group of high-society women who have taken an interest in the strike as a way of supporting women's suffrage. Through a series of twists and turns, the three girls become fast friends--and all of them are in the Triangle Shirtwast Factory on March 25, 1911, the day of the fateful fire. In a novel that puts a human face on the tragedy, Margaret Peterson Haddix has created a sweeping, forceful tale that will have readers guessing until the last page who--if anyone--survives.
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