Author: Jane Cutler
Pictures by: Emily Arnold McCully
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Concepts: poverty, child labor, services, jobs
Review: Ten-year-old Ben, the youngest child in a Jewish immigrant family in Canada, desperately wanted to contribute to the family’s income. Money was always tight after his father died, and everyone worked hard to try to make ends meet: his mother sewed clothes in a factory, his sister not only apprenticed with a milliner but also sold tickets at a movie theater, and his brother had to give up school to work full-time at a bowling alley. When Ben heard that the hat maker had a part-time job opening, he jumped at the chance. The work involved riding an old bicycle with a large woven basket filled with hat linings to the other side of town. Was Ben physically able and mature enough to handle this responsibility?
Guttersnipe, based on actual events in the life of the author’s father, expertly weaves together an engrossing story with important lessons about poverty, discrimination, and jobs. The book’s title, which is a derogatory term for young outcasts who spend most their time on the streets, goes a long way in suggesting some of the challenges that Ben faces in situating himself in the workplace. This thoughtful book can generate some interesting discussions with children about working to overcome economic and social obstacles.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children