Friday, March 21, 2014

Readdreamrelax #34 The Journal of Finn Reardon, A Newsie, New York, 1899 by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Summary: When his father dies, Finn Reardon must support his family by selling newspapers on the streets of Manhattan, where he finds himself in the middle of the Newsie Strike of 1899.
When Finn Reardon's father dies, he decides to support his mother and eight siblings by peddling newspapers on the streets corners of New York City. But when the two biggest newspaper publishers, Hearst and Pulitzer, raise the wholesale price that Finn and his friends pay for the papers they sell, the boys band together and go on strike. Susan Campbell Bartoletti brings humor and wit to this classic David and Goliath struggle between the Newsies and the newspaper publishers.

I actually wasn’t really looking forward to reading The Journal of Finn Reardon by Susan Campbell Bartoletti because when I previously read The Journal of Jedidiah Barstow by Ellen Levine, I didn’t like it.  But, much to my surprise, I instantly connected with Finn and found myself enjoying the world of New York in 1899. Something else that I found interesting and will elaborate on later on is that somehow The Journal of Finn Reardon was reminiscent of Jews Without Money by Michael Gold, except The Journal of Finn Reardon was written more for children while the other is more for adults.

Basically, Finn Reardon is a thirteen year old boy who also happens to be the only son of the family. He has three sisters, a maternal grandfather and a father all living in a tenement apartment. He is close to the age where he can legally drop out of school and  he has hopes of becoming a reporter but first he must get through school with the dreaded Mr. Drinker before he can pursue his dream.

What I admired is that The Journal of Finn Reardon hinted at the troubles and ugliness that were going on throughout the tenements such as gangs, the worries over money and not having a voice or power to get demands met, but at the same time it didn’t delve into the ugliness that The Jews Without Money did. For me, Finn Reardon and his Irish-Catholic family were very likeable characters and there is something admirable and plucky about them.

What I did notice is that the story and the plot really resembled Michael Gold’s The Jews Without Money, especially the tenement parts, gangs, and the father being scouted to join an organization and becoming a painter, and the mother being tough and likeable. (Minor difference is that Finn Reardon and his family are Catholics while the family in The Jews Without Money is Jewish.)

The only complaint I might have had about The Journal of Finn Reardon by Susan Campbell Bartoletti is that  I didn’t really understand how Finn figured out something towards the very end of the book, which caused me confusion about it, and which is something I wish would have been explained in greater detail. Also as well, The Journal of Finn Reardon is more exploratory in nature, and its more of everyday life in 1899 instead of being dramatic, which rather means that a certain event and how Finn will try to fulfil his destiny comes in very late in the book.

In my opinion, the descriptions of New York in 1899 were done very neatly and since I’ve never been to New York in my life, I had trouble picturing and imagining the streets that Finn went through. (My own fault rather than the book’s.)

Besides those observations, I would recommend reading The Journal of Finn Reardon by Susan Campbell Bartoletti because its a very enjoyable and likeable book without the grime that The Jews Without Money by Michael Gold has.

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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