Review Detail

Kids Fiction 233
Child Labor in the Early 1900s
Overall rating 
 
4.5
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
4.0
Thomas' father perished in a mining accident, so when his mother became ill and died, he ended up with his aunt and uncle. His uncle works at the coal mine and does a lot of hunting to keep the family in food. Finder is a mountain cur, a replacement for uncle's hunting dog, Daisy. Unfortunately, Finder is gun shy, so is not at all helpful in flushing or retrieving game. Times are hard, so Finder will be returned, and Thomas is going to have to work in the mines. His father, who moved to West Virginia from Chicago, wanted to be a photographer, and Thomas still has his Brownie camera. Thomas' father didn't want him to end up in the mines, but there is no choice. Thomas is sent down to dig out coal and load it on carts. He is slow, so doesn't earn much money to pay off his parents' debts. Finder is sent to help pull the cart and make things go more quickly, but when there is a fire in the mines, Finder ends up being more helpful that anyone could have realized. Based on a true story.
Good Points
Hart does interesting books about dogs in different historical settings, and this one, set in Illinois, is particularly interesting. Students today don't quite understand how difficult children had it in the past, and Thomas' life is one that would have been all too common at this period of history. GIven the current political climate, the treatment of Italians and Slavs in a small midwestern town is very interesting, and it's good to see Thomas befriend Dominic. Hart's depiction of life in the mines is very vivid. The notes at the back helped a lot, and the diagram of a coal mine was very useful to me! I always wondered how mining worked.

There does not seem to be the concentration on child labor in the school curriculum; I remember learning a lot about it in middle school. It's great that, for the most part, we are far removed from the practice, but world wide there are still issues. This is a great book to hand to privileged students who are complaining that their parents won't buy them the latest phone, or that they have too much homework!
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