Rockbuster by Gloria Skurzynski

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Is Tommy guilty of his uncle's murder at the hands of anti-union detectives? He thinks so, and the guilt plunges him into despair. His life becomes as dark as the coal mine where he works to support his mother.

In the blackness of the mine, Tommy teaches himself to play the guitar; soon he's performing at parties and dances in coal-mining towns throughout eastern Utah. One Christmas Eve, he meets lovely Eugenie, the mine owner's daughter, and writes a song for her. The two sixteen-year-olds fall in love, but because Tommy is a lowly laborer in the mine, Eugenie decides they should keep their meetings secret.

After union songwriter Joe Hill is convicted of murder in an unfair trial, Tommy is asked to be Joe's successor, to write the powerful, pro-union songs that will rally working men and women to the union cause. Tommy is torn -- if he accepts, he'll lose his job in the mine and he may lose Eugenie; if he refuses, he'll be turning away from the people he's worked with since he was eleven years old.

Riding on a train to Chicago where he'll sing at Joe Hill's funeral, Tommy reviews the crucial events of his life, from his Uncle Jim's death to his love for Eugenie to his last, memorable meeting with Joe Hill. As he sings his final tribute at the funeral, it becomes clear to Tommy what he wants to do with his life.

Many of the events in these pages actually happened, including early labor unrest, the two murder trials, and the dramatic execution of Joe Hill.

Gloria Skurzynski says, "As we live and work in the Internet Age, we forget that a century ago, most people earned their daily bread through hard manual labor. All across the U.S., union organizers roused workers to strike for safer conditions and higher wages. In the West, songwriter Joe Hill achieved his wish to become a martyr for the union cause. Perhaps Joe finally found that 'pie in the sky,' a phrase he coined that we still use today."


About Gloria Skurzynski

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Gloria Skurzynski is the author of forty-five books for young readers. Her books have won many awards: the Christopher Medal, the Golden Kite from the Society of Children's Book Writers, the Golden Spur from Western Writers of America, the Utah Children's Book Award, and the Children's Science Book Award from the American Institute of Physics. They've been named Junior Library Guild Selections, Best Books for Young Adults by the American Library Association, Best Books of the Year by School Library Journal, New York Public Library's Books for the Teen Age, and NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Published October 1, 2001 by Atheneum. 253 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Education & Reference, Young Adult, Action & Adventure, Children's Books, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Back home in his small mining town, Tommy starts to work the mines to help support his widowed mother and discovers a gift for the guitar, honing his skills in the underground blackness.

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Publishers Weekly

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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.

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Teen Reads

From small details (Tommy's search for an outhouse after a snow storm) to larger historical events (Tommy attends the trials of Hill), Skurzynski teaches history without slowing the story.

Oct 18 2011 | Read Full Review of Rockbuster

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