UPRISING; Margaret Peterson Haddix; New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007; 346pp. Advanced sixth grade and Young Adult.
Yetta, Bella, and Jane are three young women who come to know each other because of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, where the course of American history and labor relations changed after 146 people, most of them young women, died in a fire in 1911. Margaret Peterson Haddix's rich retelling of that story, through the eyes of these three young women: a Russian immigrant, an Italian immigrant, and the pampered daughter of a New York businessman, is fascinating and heartbreaking. The reader knows from the beginning that two of the three girls will die in the fire, so one's growing attachment to them is both suspenseful and poignant. Period details and social issues (labor unions, women's suffrage) entwine to flesh out the gripping narrative. It is a sad truth that young people (especially boys) have little interest in historical fiction, but this book, written by the author of the popular Shadow Children series, may do something to change that. Ms. Haddix uses a couple of far-fetched ploys to wind things up at the end, but on the whole, this is a brilliant piece of work. An interesting exposition of the facts of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire is appended. Parents should be warned that this book may contain too powerful and sorrowful images for younger, or particularly tender-hearted, children.