Review: Rose Spoke Out

Rose Spoke Out: The Story of Rose Schneiderman

by Emma Carlson Berne, illustrated by Giovanni Abeille

Apples & Honey (imprint of Behrman House), 2023

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Shirley Reva Vernick

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This is the story of Rose Schneiderman, a Jewish immigrant from Poland who became a leading labor activist in early 20th-century NYC. When 13-year-old Rose's father died, she had to leave school and go to work in a sweatshop, where she and other women sewed hats under harsh and unsafe conditions. Learning that females earned less than males was the final straw in Rose's mounting anger. She ultimately led a walkout by thousands of women in hundreds of factories, demanding better working conditions and fairer wages. Things improved a little, but not enough to prevent the notorious Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in 1911.

In the wake of that tragedy, Rose's impassioned speech before a packed audience at the Metropolitan Opera House became a turning point for citywide changes that meaningfully improved working conditions. 
The story showcases the importance and power of tikkun olam (repairing the world). The author's note situates Rose's work squarely within the context of this beloved Jewish value.The story also portrays a way of life that was shared by many Jewish immigrants in early 1900s NYC. The illustrations bolster the Jewish feel of the setting. For instance, one page features a Passover seder table, while another shows a city street containing a kosher meat market and establishments with names like Mendel's and Katz.

Rose Spoke Out is a compelling tribute to social justice, demonstrating how using one's voice for the common good can move mountains. Starring a feisty youngster who takes on "the man," the book will be appealing to readers ages 5-8. Meanwhile, the detailed, earth-toned illustrations will send children and adults alike straight to a bygone era. The close-ups of young Rose's face when she becomes angry, sad, or frightened will resonate with the picture book crowd. Warmly endorsed for homes and libraries.

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Reviewer Shirley Reva Vernick is a middle-grade and young-adult novelist. Shirley’s debut novel, THE BLOOD LIE, is a Sydney Taylor honor book and the winner of the Simon Wiesenthal Once Upon A World Book Award. Her latest Jewish-themed MG novel, RIPPED AWAY, won the Best Indie Book Award and the Purple Dragonfly Award.