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Which Side Are You On?

The New York Times
"The story is a good and important one, and it is well told for an elementary-school audience...Cardinale’s folksy, woodcut-style paintings include several memorable images."
- October 26, 2011 
Publishers Weekly
"It’s a high-stakes account of grace under pressure."
"Writing in the folksy voice of the daughter of a Kentucky coal miner, Lyon (All the Water in the World) tells the story of the genesis of a pro-union song written by Florence Reece (the fictionalized narrator’s mother) in 1931. Evoking woodblocks and scratchboard, Cardinale’s (Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush) hard-edged illustrations provide the tale’s momentum and amplify its grittiness. The narrator and her siblings are shown hiding under the bed early on, as bullets zing through the windows and walls of their company home; they are meant for the children’s father, a miner and union organizer. Dodging bullets, their mother tears a page from a calendar and writes the eponymous song, a rallying cry for oppressed workers ('Don’t scab for the bosses./ Don’t listen to their lies'); the lyrics appear in ribboned banners throughout, encircling mining tools and rifles. Lyon’s storytelling jumps between speech-balloon dialogue and the girl’s clipped observations ('This is how the night goes: bullets through the walls, talk under the bed, words on the page'). It’s a high-stakes account of grace under pressure. An afterword provides additional historical context."
- September 19, 2011 
Kirkus Reviews
"Cardinale's digitally colored scratchboard art is dynamic...Given that many of the same [labor] conditions exist today, only changed by mechanization, the music and lyrics included may well find use in the current generation. Lyon has given today's readers a stirring story."
"'Folk songs are alive," states Lyon in her author's note, and none is more so than "Which Side Are You On?'

The song, based on a hymn tune and lyrics, rose up from coal miners' strikes in Harlan County, Ky., in the 1930s. Narrated in the first person by a miner's daughter, this plainspoken account tells of the physical threat to the Reese family when their father is chased from town and the family comes under attack by Sheriff J.H. Blair's hired and armed thugs. Interspersed with the narration are the words of the song. Cardinale's digitally colored scratchboard art is dynamic and presents a visual reality that strengthens the history of the song and the people who sang it. The author's note adds a concise history of unions, laborers' demands for fair wages, safe conditions and an end of servitude to mine owners. Her explanation of the folk process is clear and shows how words and perceptions change over time. The book will be of great use in explaining U.S. labor history and development of workers' rights. Given that many of the same conditions exist today, only changed by mechanization, the music and lyrics included may well find use in the current generation.

Lyon has given today's readers a stirring story about yesterdays."
- September 28, 2011 
Shelf Awareness for Readers
"Lyon and Cardinale make a perfect match for this picture-book homage to a 1931 rallying cry born under duress in Harlan County, Ky... Although this book describes a historical event, it can open a gateway to understanding terms such as "collective bargaining," what that right has meant, and to consider what it means today."
- October 18, 2011  Visit Website
NY Journal of Books
"What a perfect time for this picture book’s arrival...“Which Side Are You On?" is an old song with new relevance for a generation facing a dubious future."
Booklist
"The story has real power and so do the best of the illustrations."
- November 15, 2011 
"WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON is beautiful, lyrical, and important, subtly showing us the importance of music and—even better—how anyone can make a difference, no matter their circumstances, as long as they put their heart and soul into it. A treasure."
- Silas House, author of Eli the Good, 2010 Storylines/NYPL Winner

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