The Journal of Otto Peltonen by William Durbin

Subtitle: A Finnish Immigrant

Published: 2000

Genre: middle grade historical fiction

Length: 168 pages

Setting: mostly Hibbing, Minnesota from 1905-1907

Interest: I chose this for our American History Club meeting on child labor and women’s suffrage. We’ve enjoyed the last My Name is America book we read (The Journal Of Jesse Smoke, A Cherokee Boy which we read when we covered Native Americans last year) so I thought it would be worth reading another in that series.

Summary: Otto’s family takes passage to the U.S. from Finland to join their father in Minnesota. He works in an iron mine and the family is shocked at the conditions in which they are forced to live. The mine work is dangerous and the best spots are given to men who bribe the foreman. After a year in school, Otto has to join his father in the mine to make ends meet. The men try to form a union in order to improve pay and working conditions, but new immigrants are brought in to work instead. Luckily, the family is able to buy a farm and leave mining behind.

Final thoughts: The book is told in journal form and does a great job of putting you in the life of a young, immigrant miner. Mr. Curiosity thought it was boring 20 pages in, but by 50 pages he had a hard time putting the book down. He enjoyed the story and format enough to look for other books in the same series. I loved the book because there were so many discussion points that were raised in the story, but not belabored – the journey to the U.S., the differences between living in the early 1900s vs. the 2000s, how dangerous mining was, how the owners felt about unions, child labor, and more. There’s even an epilogue that covers where all the main characters in the story ended up, which makes the book feel even more biographical. You have to consciously remember that it is a fiction book, not nonfiction. Overall, I enjoyed the book.

Title comes from: Descriptive of the book

Reading challenges fulfilled: 18/100 in my Finally to 100 Challenge, and a J in my Title Alphabet Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image or subtitle to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!


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