Dear Book Lovers,

What do you do when you and your friends disagree about a serious issue? Can you listen to their side? Will they listen to yours? Can you be friends if you still can’t agree on the issue? Rachel and the Riot, The Labor Movement Divides a Family by Susan Martins Miller wrestles with these questions. I think the author does a good job of helping her young readers think them through.

As the novels opens, it is 1889 in Minneapolis. The city is buzzing about the heated dispute over wages between the streetcar drivers and the company owner. The drivers are threatening to strike. Ten-year-old Rachel is surprised and dismayed at the reactions of her family and friends. Many of them take sides. Her best friends stop talking to each other. An argument between her uncles abruptly ends a family gathering. The strike even causes problems for her older brother’s baseball team.

On Easter Sunday things come to a head in the city. An angry mob of striking drivers and union sympathizers riot and some of them topple two streetcars. Rachel and her family, on their way to a family dinner, are caught up in the crowd and experience the violence first hand.

The turbulent events of the adult world do impact the lives of children. Kids want to know and need to learn how to respond. Rachel and the Riot gives some insights and I think will provoke some good thinking on the part of its readers.

The story stresses the need for people to act responsibly and respectfully even when they disagree strongly. It points to the need for prayer and acknowledges God’s help in resolving conflicts. The story also offers that friends who disagree can still be friends if they are willing to put aside their differences and focus on common goals. A subplot about accepting and befriending an immigrant girl broadens the story’s theme.

The novel has a lot of kid interest—making friends, learning to bake, playing baseball, family life, and parties. The book is one of the Sisters in Time series. I think it will appeal to girls in the upper elementary grades.