03 December 2012

Review: Flesh & Blood so Cheap by Albert Marrin

Almost all of us have heard about the Triangle Shirt fire of March 25, 1911, in which 146 people died, most of whom were Italian Catholic and Russian Jewish women in their teens and early twenties.

Albert Marrin's Flesh & Blood so Cheap tells the story of that tragedy to young audiences. The book is not however strictly a children's book, and Marrin does not talk down to his audience.

Several things made this a winner for me. First is the structure of the book. Marrin starts with a discussion of immigration and life in New York City at the turn of the last century. From there, he turns to the garment industry specifically, explaining the rise of sweatshops and the labor movement. Then Flesh & Blood focuses on the details of the Triangle Shirt fire, ending with far-reaching effects of the event. Thus readers get a full sense of the complex circumstances that led up to the fire and then understand the ways in which it still affects us today.

Marrin writes in an engaging style, defining words and concepts along the way. In addition, just about every page of the book is illustrated with historical photos, profiles of the people involved, and maps, making the story personal and accessible to readers of all ages.

In public domain
What makes this book truly shine, though, is Marrin's ability to clearly place the fire in the context of political and social history from the 1800s to modern times. Some of the lessons we should have learned from the Triangle Shirt fire are still relevant today, and Marrin outlines these issues in a balanced way, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions.

Readers may be surprised by the wide range of topics covered in Flesh & Blood so Cheap. Besides some of the obvious themes of labor laws, unions, and immigration, the fire and the people involved have connections to organized crime, Tammany Hall, social class divisions, modern labor conditions in Asia, and the decline of American-made clothing,

Thanks to its bibliography and list of Internet resources, the book is highly recommended for teachers, homeschoolers, and anyone wanting to know about the horrible fire in particular and the labor movement in general. I'm not surprised that Albert Marrin's Flesh & Blood so Cheap is a National Book Award Finalist; it should be used as a model for nonfiction for young readers.

This post will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.

Buy Flesh & Blood so Cheap at a bookstore near you (link leads to an affiliate program).
Random House/ Alfred A. Knopf / Borzio Books, 2011
Rating: A+
ISBN-13: 97803758688944

Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


rhapsodyinbooks 12/3/12, 7:14 AM  

There are an amazing number of great internet resources on this. Have you been to http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/trianglefire/ ? They have interviews with survivors and lots of pics!

JoAnn 12/3/12, 9:47 AM  

I don't read many children's books, but am interested to see how the topic is packaged for children... will check my library.

Jenn's Bookshelves 12/3/12, 10:12 AM  

I'm definitely interested in this one. Thanks for featuring it!

Daryl 12/3/12, 10:41 AM  

this subject fascinated me when i first learned about it ... so this book sounds like it needs to be added to the list..thanks!

Zibilee 12/3/12, 11:42 AM  

This would be perfect for a group of home school moms that I know who are trying to give their kids a well rounded education about the USA during that time period. Your review illustrates vividly why this book is so important and so vital to who we are today. Nice job there, my friend!

Beth Hoffman 12/3/12, 12:03 PM  

I'm so glad to know that this tragedy is being shared in a way that's appropriate for the younger folks!

Belle Wong 12/3/12, 1:22 PM  

I'm always on the lookout for good nonfiction for my son. This one sounds like a good addition to our library.

bermudaonion 12/3/12, 3:20 PM  

I love quality non-fiction for kids. This sounds excellent.

Julie P. 12/3/12, 3:24 PM  

This sounds terrific!!! I have an adult book or two on this subject that I've been meaning to read. Maybe I should start with this one.

Uomo di Speranza 12/3/12, 8:40 PM  

Yes! When many people first hear about the horrible conditions these immigrants worked in, they're incredulous. They ask how that could ever happen, and the answer turns out to be their iPhones.

Unknown 12/3/12, 11:04 PM  

This sounds so interesting, like something I'd enjoy myself. Thank you...love how you find these tucked away gems!!

Man of la Book 12/4/12, 7:37 AM  

Sounds interesting, I remember learning about the fire in school and about the relevant safety improvements that were made and are used till this day as a result.


Debbie Rodgers 12/4/12, 11:18 AM  

In light of the recent fire in Bangladesh, this should be on the curriculum of very child in the "developed" countries.

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) 12/5/12, 11:37 AM  

I remember being fascinated by this tragedy when I first heard about it as a teen, but I haven't read much about it lately. This looks like a good place to start.

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