cover image ASHES OF ROSES


Mary Jane Auch, Mj Auch, . . Holt, $16.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-6686-9

Auch (Journey to Nowhere) combines a classic immigration tale with the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in this spirited novel. The narrator, 16-year-old Rose Nolan, arrives at Ellis Island with her family, but right away they are beset by obstacles. Her baby brother is diagnosed with trachoma, and her father must take him back to Ireland; her uncle's family, while taking them in, makes it clear they are unwelcome. Rose finds work in a sweatshop and, after her mother, too, gives up on America, Rose rents a tiny room with her 12-year-old sister from the father of a union organizer, a girl named Gussie. High-minded Gussie helps Rose deal with her dishonest boss and finagle a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. There, Rose makes friends and begins to enjoy New York, but when the infamous fire breaks out, she finds herself trapped, along with all of her fellow employees (management locked the girls in each day); Rose's friends, including Gussie, are among the 146 fatalities. Fast pacing sweeps readers from the initial confusion of Ellis Island to the horrific fire, while Auch supplies vivid period detail and strong female characters to build toward a hopeful conclusion ("I was goin' to reach out and grab this new life in America with all my strength, because I was brought here for a purpose," says Rose). Dear America graduates will be hooked. Ages 12-15. (May)