Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

On Our Way to Oyster Bay: Mother Jones and Her March for Children's Rights

On Our Way to Oyster Bay: Mother Jones and Her March for Children's Rights

Monica Kulling
Illustrator:  Felicita Sala 
Historical Fiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Kids Can Press, 2016   ISBN: 978-1771383257

For twelve hours a day, six days a week, eight-year-old Aidan and his friend Gussie work in a mill. Aidan would love to be able to go to school, but his family needs his wages and so Aidan works instead. On this particular day Aidan and the other children and adults who work in the mill are on strike because of the dangerous working conditions in the factory, and the inadequate pay that they receive.

The demonstrators are joined by a woman called Mother Jones, who, in Aidan’s opinion, looks like “someone’s granny.” Mother Jones may look like a grandmother with her white hair, black clothes, and spectacles, but she is a not to be a trifled with. She is a labor activist who has decided that the strikers need to do something grandiose to draw attention to their cause; and so she proposes that they walk from their mill in Kensington, Pennsylvania, to Oyster Bay in New York, which is more than one hundred miles away. President Roosevelt has his summer home in Oyster Bay and the hope is that a march including children will get the president’s attention so that he will listen to what the strikers have to say. He needs to know about the working children who are being injured in factories, and who are not getting an education.

The march is hard and long and every day “a few of the marchers quit,” but Aidan and Gussie keep going. It feels good to be doing something that is “so important” not just for them but for other working children.

For many of us the idea of young children working instead of learning and playing is abhorrent, and yet it wasn’t until 1938 that a real labor law protecting children was passed in the United States; thirty-five years after Mother Jones and her supporters did their famous march. This story is based on real accounts of that march, and it serves as a tribute to the real children who completed that arduous journey, and to the woman, Mother Jones, who led them.

At the back of the book the author provides her readers with further information about Mother Jones, her lifework, and her legacy. She also tells us about the child labor issues that still exist today, and encourages her young readers to “Take Action!” and do their part to support exploited children around the world.