On Tuesdays and Thursdays this school year, I've been tutoring in an after school program at our local high school. Last Thursday there were no tutorees (they come in voluntarily, so that happens sometimes) and one of the peer mentors (a student who tutors) was homeworked out, so we spent the whole time having an impromptu discussion about all things books. We've talked about books before, but this time we talked about what we were reading, I introduced her to some book vloggers on You Tube and we wandered the isles at the library, where tutoring conveniently takes place, pointing out books to one another. The one she highly recommended that seemed familiar to me, but I wasn't sure if I'd read or not was Bread and Roses, Too. That evening, I checked it out in audio book format from the county library.
It turns out I have read Bread and Roses, Too before. It was a long time ago - I'm going to go with at least 9 years ago. It was long enough ago that I didn't really remember much, but there were a few scenes that I definitely remembered. Davan and I read it for the homeschool book group we were a part of back then. I remember thinking it was okay then. That's about how I felt about it this time, too. It was okay. I'm finding I have less tolerance for kid's books than I used to. When Davan I and were reading kid's books together when she was the right age for them, I think the joy of reading together and seeing her reactions to the books caused me to enjoy them. Now, though, I find myself frustrated with the juvenility of the characters. Yes, they are supposed to be kids, but sometimes I think adult authors write motivations into child characters that are too juvenile. Between that and the kids actually being kids, I just feel kind of annoyed. For me, YA novels are a different story (usually).
Anyway, Bread and Roses, Too, is told from two points of view. One is 12(ish) year old Rosa who lives with her loving but very poor Italian family. Rosa attends school and is the star pupil while her mom and couple of year older sister work in the mills. Her baby brother is tended to by the grandmother of the Lithuanian family they took in as boarders to make ends meet after Rosa's father died. The baby brother cries a lot because he is so very hungry. They are lucky to have a small piece of bread for breakfast and a little cabbage soup for dinner.
The other point of view is Jake who is about the same age and is a mill worker. Kids aren't supposed to start working until they're 14, but there is a fixer who will doctor the documents for a fee. He lives, some of the time, with his alcoholic and abusive father who doesn't work, but takes all of Jake's wages. When not with his father, Jake sleeps in trash piles.
This historical novel takes place in 1912 during the Lawrence Mill Strike. Rosa's and Jake's stories only intersect a briefly a couple of times prior to the second half of the book when they both end up sent away to a safe place for the remainder of the strike.
Historically speaking, the book had some interest. I didn't exactly like either child. I did find Rosa more likable, but not as much as her mother, who I'd have liked to know more about. I found Jake pretty unlikable and was often annoyed by his choices and thoughts.
I can see how my young, scholarly, peer mentor friend who lives with an extended family of 10 whose mom has done factory work and who has some extended relatives who are migrant workers would identify with this book and with Rosa in particular. I read it for her and might recommend it to some kids/teens, but I don't think I'd recommend it to an adult.