Cool Non-Fiction Reads

Friday February 18, 2011

Flesh & Blood So Cheap
The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy
by Albert Martin
February 8, 2011
Random House Children's Books
Goodreads Summary: On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City burst into flames.  The factory was crowded.  The doors were locked to ensure workers stay inside.  One hundred forty-six people—mostly women—perished; it was one of the most lethal workplace fires in American history until September 11, 2001.

But the story of the fire is not the story of one accidental moment in time.  It is a story of immigration and hard work to make it in a new country, as Italians and Jews and others traveled to America to find a better life.  It is the story of poor working conditions and greedy bosses, as garment workers discovered the endless sacrifices required to make ends meet.  It is the story of unimaginable, but avoidable, disaster.  And it the story of the unquenchable pride and activism of fearless immigrants and women who stood up to business, got America on their side, and finally changed working conditions for our entire nation, initiating radical new laws we take for granted today.

With Flesh and Blood So Cheap, Albert Marrin has crafted a gripping, nuanced, and poignant account of one of America's defining tragedies.

My thoughts....I read this one the day it came in the mail. I have heard about this disastrous fire but only bits and pieces. It seems that we always here about the horror stories of similar things happening in third world country sweatshops but rarely about the similar events that have happened right here in the United States.

The author takes a well-rounded approach by first providing detailed information on specific groups of immigrants that traveled from around the world to America for better opportunities in life. Although the opportunity was there, the road to security and happiness was paved with hardship and loss. One of the most startling statistics that I read was that in 1911 (100 years ago!) about 1,000 people died every WEEK due to work related injuries...isn't that crazy! That is compared to the average of about 97 people who died due to work related injuries and illness in 2008. 

The book provides real life stories and details of the people who were there and who died in the fire, making the story feel personalized and real. Reading the details about what people saw and experienced really had an impact on the whole event. It was especially sad that so many children were involved. 

After the fire some people took a stand and demanded that things change. The book provides information on these people and the steps they took to get the ball rolling. The formation of unions and worker advocates is very interesting and thought provoking. 

I really enjoyed this book. I think it is well written and it is has the perfect combination of truthful facts and personal stories to make it interesting as well as informational.

Amelia Lost:
The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart
by Candace Fleming
February 8, 2011
Random House Children's Books
Goodreads Summary: From the acclaimed author of The Great and Only Barnum—as well as The Lincolns, Our Eleanor, and Ben Franklin's Almanac—comes the thrilling story of America's most celebrated flyer, Amelia Earhart. In alternating chapters, Fleming deftly moves readers back and forth between Amelia's life (from childhood up until her last flight) and the exhaustive search for her and her missing plane. With incredible photos, maps, and handwritten notes from Amelia herself—plus informative sidebars tackling everything from the history of flight to what Amelia liked to eat while flying (tomato soup)—this unique nonfiction title is tailor-made for middle graders.

My Thoughts...An enjoyable read that alternates chapters between the search for Amelia and the story behind the myth, from her birth up to the day she departed on her historical flight. 

There is a lot of good biographical information here including all her accomplishments as well as details of her personal life. We all the know how her story ends but the details that led up to her fateful flight will give you an idea of who Amelia really was. The last few pages of this book actually had me tearing up as the author quotes not only her family and friends, but people around the world her mourned her loss. An excellent biography.


Man of la Books said...

Great reviews. Books like "Flesh & Blood So Cheap" always amaze me and horrify at the way we used to treat other human beings (and in some places, still do).