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An Interview With Katherine Paterson

September 9th, 2006 by Paul Martin

Katherine Paterson has been the recipient of the Newbery Medal twice (for “Bridge to Terabithia” and “Jacob Have I Loved”), among many other honors. Her new children’s book, “Bread and Roses, Too,” is a historical novel about the 1912 “Bread and Roses” strike in the textile mills of Lawrence, Mass. The book tells the story of what happened after the strike turned violent, and labor leaders organized an evacuation of strikers’ children to faraway towns and cities, like Barre, Vt. (where Paterson lives.)

In the novel Rosa is a young girl who excels at school while her mother and sister get passionately caught up in the strike; when Rosa is sent away to Barre she befriends Jake, a 13-year-old mill worker who is forced to flee a desperate situation and needs her help. In an e-mail interview, Paterson talked about what drew her to the story.

TBR: In “Bread and Roses, Too,” readers learn about the plight of the mill workers from the perspectives of Rosa and Jake, who hold opposing views about the strike. How did you get the idea to tell the story through the two kids’ alternating viewpoints?

Paterson: I wanted to show the difference between a child who actually worked in the mill and one fortunate enough to be going to school while family members worked. Having two main characters was the way I chose to solve the problem.

TBR: Throughout the novel, you capture the daily struggle of women and children in Lawrence and their drive to form a union. Did you do a lot of research on the history of the strike?

Paterson: Yes, I did do extensive research. There are comparatively few full books about the strike, but there are a number of chapters in a variety of books. I also had the articles from the Barre newspaper of the time and, of course, I visited Lawrence and I live in Barre, which were a great help in describing the settings.

[New York Times for the rest]