Joshua's Song

by Joan Hiatt Harlow

Joshua Harper and his mother are struggling financially since his father died of... read more

Joshua Harper and his mother are struggling financially since his father died of influenza. Even though his family lives in a wealthy Boston neighborhood, Joshua’s father had few assets when he died. Filled with grief, anger, and not a little self-pity at having to find a job, Joshua gets work as a newsie at age 13. Joshua is good at hawking newspapers. And, in getting to know one of the other newsies, Angelina (a young girl who poses as a boy), Joshua learns about the poverty in Boston’s North End. He is dismayed that the newspapers haven’t written about the conditions there, and that the government hasn’t done more to help the people in the neighborhood. On one of his visits to the North End, Joshua gets caught in what is known as Boston’s “Great Molasses Flood” of 1919, when a tank holding 2.5 million gallons of raw molasses burst, killing and injuring those in its path. There is a tense, dramatic climax before loose ends are neatly tied for young readers. An author’s note provides a lengthy discussion of the “molasses flood,” as well as information on the influenza pandemic of 1918 and newsies. (Ages 8–11)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2002

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