The Breaker Boys
By Pat Hughes
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), Hardcover, 9780374309565, 256pp.)
Publication Date: August 26, 2004
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The son of a wealthy Pennsylvania coal mine operator, Nate Tanner resents being shipped off to boarding school. Anger—mainly at his father and stepmother—is what gets him there and what prevents him from making friends. Then, in the spring of 1897, it gets him kicked out and sent home. To avoid his family, Nate disappears on his bicycle every day. In this way he meets the breaker boys, who do dangerous, dirty work for his father, separating coal from debris. Nate admires these Polish immigrants, especially Johnny, and longs to become his friend. But the only way is for Nate to hide that he is the boss's son. As Nate and Johnny's friendship marches toward the moment of truth, Nate discovers that the mine workers are plotting a strike. Should he warn his family or protect his friend?
This fascinating second novel features a hero who is blessed—or cursed—with the ability to see both sides of a painful issue and to accept that no one is impartial.
Pat Hughes lives in Narberth, Pennsylvania. A former copy editor, Pat has been praised for her “accurate detailing of the events and moods of a tumultuous time” (Publishers Weekly) in her first book, Guerrilla Season.
“A strong story of family and friendship, rooted in a fascinating period of American history.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A compelling fictional narrative.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Hughes has created a complex protagonist . . . Readers—especially boys—will relate to him, and they will learn about coal production and the everyday life of both workers and owners.”
—School Library Journal