Saturday, July 13, 2013

Reaching for the American Dream

In 1901, my maternal great-grandmother, Beda, arrived in the United States aboard the S.S. St. Paul. She landed in New York City the day President William McKinley died, September 14th. She married my great-grandfather, Claus, during the winter of 1908. She worked as a seamstress and he as a farmer in Marshall County, Kansas. My great-uncle, Everett was born in the fall of 1909 followed by my grandmother, Inez, in the winter of 1913. The family learned English by reading the Sears and Roebuck's catalog.

My husband's parents married in the fall of 1946 in Clifton, Arizona. My in-laws worked for the Phelps Dodge Corporation in the copper mine.  They raised a family in the town of Morenci, owned and operated by Phelps Dodge. The entire city (school, hospital, mercantile, everything) was owned by the mining company. They rented a three bedroom, from the corporation for $24-$25 per month. Along with each paycheck a book of coupons, in $20 increments, was issued. This money was deducted from the paycheck, but could be used to make purchases in the mercantile.

Although the time period and the locations are not the same, they are similar enough to the new book I am reviewing that I had to mention some of the comparisons.

Katerina's Wish
by Jeannie Mobley
Katerina's Wish is a wonderful coming of age book about a young Bohemian girl and her family who have come to the United States in the early 1900s. They make their way to a southern Colorado coal mining town and live in a home owned by the mining company. The family is part of a community of other immigrants, also working for the mining company. The three sisters, Trina, Aneshka and Holena, attended school during the fall helping them to learn English. Their mother relied on her daughters to assist her, but learned about America by looking at the pictures and ads in the newspaper.

This thirteen-year-old overcomes a number of obstacles in order to help her family achieve the American dream. She shows the most growth through listening to fairy tales told by family and friends. The sisters learn about perseverance, creative thinking, and reaching for your dreams. I love the manner in which Ms. Mobley wove the traditional Eastern European fairy tales into the book. It made me want to go and find these stories so I could read more.

I highly recommend this wonderful historical fiction title for all libraries providing services to children in upper elementary through middles school (Grade 4 - 8). Not only is it a wonderful story, I actually did not want it to end and hope a sequel is in the making, it is also an excellent example of a mining community.

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