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November 2, 2021
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Which Side Are You On?

The Story of a Song

Which Side Are You On? tells the story of the classic union song that was written in 1931 by Florence Reece in a rain of bullets. It has been sung by people fighting for their rights all over the world. Florence's husband Sam was a coal miner in Kentucky. Many of the coal mines were owned by big companies, who kept wages low and spent as little money on safety as possible. Miners lived in company houses on company land and were paid in scrip, good only at the company store. The company owned the miners sure as sunrise.

That's why they had to have a union. Miners went on strike until they could get better pay, safer working conditions, and health care. The company hired thugs to attack union organizers like Sam Reece.

George Ella Lyon tells this hair-raising story through the eyes of one of Florence's daughters, a dry-witted, pig-tailed gal whose vantage point is from under the bed with her six brothers and sisters. The thugs' bullets hit the thin doors and windows of the company house and the kids lying low wonder whether they're going to make it out of this alive; wonder exactly if this strike will make their lives better or end them, but their mother keeps scribbling and singing. "We need a song," she tells her kids. That's not at all what they think they need. Graphic novelist Christopher Cardinale brings Florence's triumphant story to life in true rip-roaring union style.

About the Authors

George Ella Lyon is the award-winning author of more than forty books, including Golden Kite Award winner Borrowed Children, Appalachian Writers Association Book of the Year Catalpa, Aesop Prize winner "Which Side Are You On?" The Story of a Song, and Bank Street Best Books selection and ALA notable All the Water in the World. Her most recent books are She Let Herself Go: Poems and the young adult novel Holding on to Zoe. Her poem "Where I'm From" is featured in the PBS series The United States of Poetry and has become a model for teachers around the world. Connect with her online at www.georgeellalyon.com.

Christopher Cardinale is a graphic novelist and muralist.


"The story is a good and important one, and it is well told for an elementary-school audience. [ . . . ] Cardinale's folksy, woodcut-style paintings include several memorable images."—The New York Times

"Which Side Are You On? is beautiful, lyrical, and important, subtly showing us the importance of music and—even better—how anyone can make a difference, no matter their circumstances, as long as they put their heart and soul into it. A treasure."—Silas House, author of Eli the Good

"Cardinale's digitally colored scratchboard art is dynamic. [ . . . ] Given that many of the same [labor] conditions exist today, only changed by mechanization, the music and lyrics included may well find use in the current generation. Lyon has given today's readers a stirring story."—Kirkus

"A high-stakes account of grace under pressure."—Publishers Weekly

"The story has real power and so do the best of the illustrations."—Booklist

"Lyon and Cardinale make a perfect match for this picture-book homage to a 1931 rallying cry born under duress in Harlan County, KY. [ . . . ] Although this book describes a historical event, it can open a gateway to understanding terms such as 'collective bargaining,' what that right has meant, and to consider what it means today."—Shelf Awareness

"What a perfect time for this picture book's arrival. [ . . . ] 'Which Side Are You On?' is an old song with new relevance for a generation facing a dubious future."—New York Journal of Books

9781950564132 : which-side-are-you-on-lyon-cardinale
Electronic book text
40 Pages
$24.95 USD

Other Titles by George Ella Lyon

Back to the Light

George Ella Lyon
Apr 2021 - University Press of Kentucky
$19.95 USD - Paperback / softback
$19.95 USD - Electronic book text
$19.95 USD - Electronic book text

Talking Appalachian

edited by Amy D. Clark, Nancy M. Hayward, with contributions byMichael Ellis, Kirk Hazen, Jaime Wagner Flesher, Erin Simmons, Anita Puckett, Jeffrey Reaser, Walt Wolfram, George Ella Lyon, Silas House, Lee Smith, Jane Hicks, Rita Quille...
Aug 2014 - University Press of Kentucky
$60.00 USD - Hardback
$30.00 USD - Electronic book text
$60.00 USD - Electronic book text

Driving with the Dead

Jane Hicks, foreword by George Ella Lyon
Aug 2014 - University Press of Kentucky
$19.95 USD - Paperback / softback
$19.95 USD - Electronic book text
$19.95 USD - Electronic book text