Breaker: A Boy’s Story of the 1902 Pennsylvania Coal Strike
By N.A. Perez
Breaker is the story of the 1902 Pennsylvania coal miners’ strike seen through the eyes of fourteen-year-old Pat McFarlane. Pat lives in Scatter Patch, a small town of immigrants and poor, working-class citizens ruled by the anthracite mine and run by a rich and aloof boss. ("They don’t suffer," said mine owner George Baer during the 1902 strike. "They don’t even speak English." Real quote, not fiction!) When his father is killed in a massive cave-in, Pat must go to work as a breaker boy. Under terrible and dangerous conditions, he and the other boys spend their days picking slate out of streams of coal.
Spurred on by the unionist John Mitchell, the community becomes more and more discontented. Ultimately the workers strike. Pat, his rebellious older brother Cal, his sharp-witted sister Annie, and their proud mother Mam must fight poverty, hunger, and a sense of anger as they wait out the union’s battle with the mine owners. Pat’s strong will, his love of baseball, and his desire for change intermingle to produce a thrilling and satisfying saga of labor strife and one boy’s struggle to make a difference. Highly recommended for young adults, ages 10-14.
"Adventure and history meet in a fine tale of the strength of the human spirit in the face of backbreaking labor, mine owners’ greed, and ethnic tension."200 pages paperback
VOICE OF YOUTH ADVOCATES
"A well-crafted novel that allows young adults to experience a neglected aspect of our history."
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
"A strong, well-realized fictionalization of events surrounding the strike in the anthracite mines in Pennsylvania in 1902."