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Rockbuster

by Gloria Skurzynski,

Publishers Weekly : Skurzynski's (Spider's Voice) taut historical novel examines the plight and maturation of a boy caught in the crossfire of the early labor movement. Spanning eight years, the novel opens in 1907, when 10-year-old Tommy travels with his charming Uncle Jim from their Utah coal mine home to Boise, Idaho, to secretly deliver funds to help with union leader Big Bill Haywood's trial. However, when Tommy inadvertently reveals his uncle's identity (he's prominent in the union) to Pinkerton detectives, Jim is hustled off the train and later found dead. Tommy blames himself for Jim's death: "He would keep the terrible truth locked inside himself until the day they lowered him into his own grave." Tommy leaves school to work in the mines and help support himself and his mother, and in his relatively protected job as trapper boy he practices guitar, a talent which ultimately earns extra money and some fame. As Tom progresses from trapper to rockbuster, boy to man, Skurzynski effectively portrays the conflict, acrimony and even hypocrisy of the early union movement. When Wobbly songster Joe Hill, sentenced to death on a trumped-up murder charge, asks Tom to play at his funeral and take up his role in the movement, Tom must decide how he can best make a difference and how it will affect his romance with the mine owner's daughter. Readers will admire Tom for finding his own path to help ameliorate inequity and injustice. Ages 12-up.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

School Library Journal : Gr 6-10-After the deaths of his father and uncle, Tommy Quinlan goes to work in the coal mines to help support his mother and himself. Since his job as a trapper involves periodic activity, he uses the quiet time to teach himself the guitar. He eventually becomes a laborer and after years of practicing his instrument, the teen begins to play at local gatherings to supplement the family's income. It is at one of these that he meets the mine owner's daughter, and they begin a stolen romance. Though Tommy loves Eugenie, he finds himself resentful of their class differences. His friends among the union supporters urge him to take a more active part and they call upon him to perform the rousing songs of the labor movement. When Joe Hill, the beloved union songwriter who has been unjustly convicted of murder and condemned to death, calls upon Tommy to become his successor, the boy must decide where his loyalties lie. This finely crafted and richly detailed coming-of-age story is made both distinctive and universal as readers follow Tommy's maturation. Skurzynski's research into the lives of Utah miners in the early 20th century and the efforts of workers to organize becomes evident in her convincing portrayal of their world, their cares, and their struggles. Rockbuster is an engaging story of self-discovery that teens will relate to on many levels.-Heather Dieffenbach, Lexington Public Library, KY

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms