Kids on Strike!

cover image for Kids on Strike!Bartoletti, S. C. (1999) Kids on Strike!. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.


The common narrative of immigrant and worker’s rights in the United States is that change for the better was as gradual and inevitable as the passage of time itself.   Bartoletti’s moving description of various strikes involving children and teens shows that the fight for decent pay and working conditions was very often an all out war that required great courage on behalf of the striking workers.


Kids on Strike! focuses on the 1836 Lowell strike, the Newsies strike of 1899, the New York City rent strike of 1907, the Anthracite coal strikes in Pennsylvania from 1897 to 1902, Mother Jones children’s march in 1903, the Garment Worker’s strikes of 1897 and 1909, and the 1912 Lawrence strike.  It ends with a chapter on the National Child Labor Committee and a timeline of federal laws on child labor.  By focusing on strikes that involved child and adolescent laborers, as well their specific contributions to the strike, Bartoletti not only highlights the differences and similarities in children’s lives then compared to now, she also introduces an important historical movement in a way that makes it easy for tweens to relate and understand.



Bartoletti describes not only the danger even small children faced from working on the streets and in factories but also the sometimes violent lengths the striking workers went to in order to gain even the smallest of concessions.  While the factory owners rarely come across as sympathetic characters, neither does Bartoletti pretend that all the violence was on their end.  In being clear, honest, and up front about the actions of the workers Bartoletti presents not only a fair picture, but also one that shows various historical figures as the multi-dimensional and real people they were.  A generous amount of historical photographs also help to bring the truth of the text to life.

My only wish was that the use of text and pictures was more dynamic.  The text itself did a great job of capturing one’s attention, but the amount of it was still a little overwhelming considering the reading level.  Younger tweens might find the large amounts of unbroken text daunting, while older tweens might find the language sometimes a bit simplistic considering the topic and amount to be read.  Nevertheless, this is an excellent and necessary addition to any library for tweens.

Best for ages 9-14

Awards and Reviews:

Starred review Publisher’s Weekly

Starred review Kirkus

Starred review School Library Journal

Jane Addam’s Children’s Book Award

Author Website:


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