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Counting on Grace
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there is a horrifying scene of a boy deliberately putting his hand in a machine, which mangles it and cuts off two fingers, so that he won't have to work in the mill anymore. Sensitive children will find both the scene and its implications disturbing.
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What's the story?
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 But as time goes by, and nothing seems to change, Arthur becomes increasingly withdrawn and angry, until he decides to take drastic measures.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.
Is it any good?
This fascinating and, at times, horrifying story will open kids' eyes to what the lives of some children in America were like not all that long ago. Now required reading throughout the state of Vermont, COUNTING ON GRACE is based on the true story of photographer Lewis Hines' crusade to reveal the realities of child labor to the public. It was inspired particularly by one of his photos that shows 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 shows kids a part of history they may not have heard much about in school.