Papergirl by Melinda McCracken
Publication Date: 1st April 2019
Publisher: Roseway Publishing
Ten-year-old Cassie lives with her working-class family in 1919 Winnipeg. The Great War and Spanish Influenza have taken their toll, and workers in the city are frustrated with low wages and long hours. When they orchestrate a general strike, Cassie — bright, determined and very bored at school — desperately wants to help.
She begins volunteering for the strike committee as a papergirl, distributing the strike bulletin at Portage and Main, and from her corner, she sees the strike take shape. Threatened and taunted by upper-class kids and hungrier by the day, Cassie soon realizes that the strike isn’t just a lark — it’s a risky and brave movement.
With her impoverished best friend, Mary, volunteering in the nearby Labour Café, and Cassie’s police officer brother in the strike committee’s inner circle, Cassie becomes increasingly furious about the conditions that led workers to strike.
When an enormous but peaceful demonstration turns into a violent assault on Bloody Saturday, Cassie is changed forever. Lively and engaging, this novel is a celebration of solidarity, justice and one brave papergirl.
I thought that this book was so interesting. It’s very unusual to read a book about Canadian history (Europe seems to dominate historical fiction for some reason) and I was pulled into the story straight away.
It’s set straight after WWI, and the residents of Winnipeg are dealing with the after effects of this; rising prices, rations, and illnesses are just a few. The result of this was a workers strike and it was portrayed so honestly in the book; there was no hiding just how difficult the strikes were for the working class.
Papergirl is aimed at a YA audience, but I think it would be much better suited for a younger audience. The tone and the plot had quite a young feel to it, due to the age of the main character, Cassie, and how she reacted to everything around her. It felt more like a middle-grade book to me because of the fast pace and Cassie’s desire for adventure. She had such a different perspective on the world around her, and I love how much she wanted to get involved in the strikes.
This book was very educational, which can put some readers off it. However, I found myself wanting to know more, mainly because I knew next to nothing about the Winnipeg strikes, but also because it was difficult to put the book down. I became really invested in learning the outcome of everything! I also feel like this would help younger readers so much, as they are able learn with Cassie both in relation to the strikes, and to the situations that Cassie is presented with throughout the novel.
*I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review – all opinions are my own!*