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Counting on Grace

Counting on grace, Elizabeth Winthrop, Wendy Lamb Books – a division of Random House, Inc.,2006

Grade level: 6– 8

ISBN Number & Cost: 0-385-74644-X $15.95


Blanket Permission to Reproduce Book Jackets:

Preferred wording: Counting on grace, Elizabeth Winthrop. Wendy Lamb Books, ©2006, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books


Synopsis: Twelve year olds Grace and Arthur help their teacher and a photographer prove illegal child labor practices in Vermont during the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century’s in cotton mills.

General Review:

Grace Forcier is a French Canadian twelve-year-old who lives with her immigrant family in the New England state of Vermont. Her parents and sister work thirteen hour days in the cotton mill form eager wages. Often children are put to work in the mill before the legal age of fourteen. When Grace a bright twelve-year-old student goes to work at the

mill, she struggles with being left-handed and operating right handed machines. Grace, her best friend Arthur, and their teacher bring the child labor problem to light with the help of photographer, Lewis Hine. “I’ve got my clumsy right hand and my jumpy brain and my big mouth making smart …” is the way Grace describes herself, however, Grace and Arthur are the ones who help bring about change for good in the lives of their people.


Themes: Family life, Immigration, Photography, Textile Mills, Child Labor Laws, Early Twentieth Century, French Canadians

Author information: Elizabeth Winthrop grew up in a writing family. Her father wrote a syndicated column, was an Evening Post editor and a Newsweek Magazine columnist and authored many books about political Washington. Her brother, Stewart Alsop, writes for Fortune Magazine. Her great great uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, wrote thirty-eight books. She, however, is the only fiction writer in the family having written fifty some books. She writes picture books for young children, chapter books for middle

grade readers, short stories and novels for adults. Her most popular books are The Castle in the Attic and The Battle for the Castle, both novels for middle grades. When children ask her about writing, she tells them that by the time they are twelve years old, they will be able to write as many as a hundred books from the memories they will have. She knew that she could make a living by writing and she believed that writing

is an honorable profession. She lives part of the year in New York City and part of the year in Massachusetts. Her children are Eliza and Andrew. They are in their twenties. Her website is


Discussion Questions: (Standard 3, Benchmark 3)


  • What impressed you about the schooling of 1910 compared to your school experience in the early twenty-first century?
  • Many families in the United States today are called nuclear families meaning parents and children only in a household. How does Grace’s family compare as an intergenerational family? as an immigrant family? List their challenges.
  • Traits of survival and leadership are found in different characters of this historic novel. The author uses interesting words to convey this. List some of Grace’s strengths then choose another character and do the same.



  • Most people are either right handed or left handed. For one hour try to do your work with your opposite hand. Discuss your experience in small groups. (Standard 9, Benchmark 1)
  • Write a journal of the activities of your day along side of Grace and Arthur’s day. How do they compare? (Standard 3, benchmark 1)
  • Create a Venn diagram or other graphic organizer of your choice showing similarities and differences in photography from 1910 and today. (Standard 3, benchmark 1)


*Note to teachers: Russell Freedman’s book Kids at Work is a biography of Lewis Hine. Selections could be effectively used with students as a read-aloud.


Similar Books for Further Reading:

Denenberg, Barry. So Far from Home: The Diary of

Mary Driscoll, an Irish Mill Girl . New York;

Scholastic, 1997.

Freedman, Russell. Kids at Work. New York: Scholastic, 1994

Greenwood, Barbara. Factory Girl. New York: Kids Can Press, 2007.

Harlow, Joan Hiatt. Joshua’s Song. New York: Margaret K. McElderry, 2001.

Hopkinson, Deborah. Up Before Daybreak: Cotton

and People in America . New York; Scholastic, 2006.

Isaacs, Sally Senzell. Life in a New England Mill

Town . Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2003.

McCully, Emily Arnold. The Bobbin Girl. New York:

Dial Books for Young Readers, 1996.

Meltzer, Milton. Cheap Raw Material: How our

Youngest Workers are Exploited and Abused . New York:

Viking, 1994.

Parker, David L. Stolen Dreams: Portraits of

Working Children . Minneapolis: Lerner Publications,


Patterson, Katherine. Lyddie. New York: Puffin

Books, 1992.