Nancy Keane's Booktalks -- Quick and Simple

Main Page
Author List
Title List
New This Month
Interest Level
Subject List
Booktalking Tips
Book Review Sources
Reading lists
Nancy Keane's Children's Website

Click on the book to read Amazon reviews

Easton, Richard.
Clarion Books, 2002.
IL 3-6, RL 5.3
ISBN 0618133399

(3 booktalks)

Booktalk #1

What does it mean to be a “real American?” Eleven-year-old Nathan McClelland thinks he knows until all his neighbors sell their farms to the coal company and move away. Nathan doesn’t like the Italian immigrants who’ve moved in to work in the mines—that is, until he meets Arturo. Nathan works on making Arturo into his idea of a real American and is shocked when he discovers that Arturo doesn’t want to be Nathan’s kind of American. Read this book to find out how both boys become “real Americans.”

Prepared by Leigh Ann Bryant, Nancy Bull, Mary Hall, Daniel Beach for The South Carolina Children's Book Award nominees 2005
Booktalk #2

                    Are you a “real American”?  We’re all “real” Americans, aren’t we?  In this story we meet a boy named Nathan, who finds out more about what being a “real” American means.

                    Well, when this story starts, we meet Nathan McClelland.   The year is 1892.  Nathan  and his family have been living in the small town of Manorville, Pennsylvania for many years.  So have his friends and all their families.  But, when  coal is discovered in the surrounding area, a large company comes in and starts buying all the farmland.  Most of the families sell, but not the McClellands.  They decide to stay.  One by one, Nathan sadly watches all his friends move away.  After the last friends leave, Nathan goes by their farm and watches as the coal company tears down the house and replaces it with many, shoddily constructed shacks for the Italian immigrants who are moving in to take the dangerous mining jobs.  Nathan’s father warns him strictly about not associating with the Italian immigrants.  He says that it will just “lead to trouble.”    Being an eleven year old boy, Nathan just has to find out for himself why his dad forbids him from meeting the Italian immigrants.  As he watches the miners going to work  one day, he notices a boy, about his age.  He gets to know this boy.  Nathan finds out that his name is Arturo, Arturo Tosci.  This takes place at a time when there were no child labor laws in the U.S., or very lax labor laws, and 11 year old boys are considered to be of age to work in the mines.  Not only that, but after Nathan becomes friends with Arturo, he finds out that the miners are struggling to support their families, the  same as his own father, and they are expected to pay for their own work supplies, like picks, oil for their lamps and even the lumber to support the mineshaft!!   Serious accidents occur on a regular basis and the miners eventually want to strike for better working conditions.  Nathan decides that he just can’t stand by without doing something to help the “bunch of stinking foreigners” as his childhood friends refer to the Italians.
                    Find out how Nathan helps his friend and discovers what being a real American is all about.  (Francoise H. Fussell,,  Universtiy of South Carolina, College of Library & Information Studies)

Booktalk #3

Ask students: Do you like change? Eleven year old Nathan McClelland is very unhappy because he does not like change. This story is set in a small farming community in Pennsylvania in the early 1900’s. A coal mining industry opens a new mine near Nathan’s home. The coal mine brings in Italian foreigners and forces many hometown neighbors to sell their farms to the coal-mining company. Even Nathan’s best friend is forced to move. With all of his friends gone and all of this change, Nathan becomes very sad. Nathan hears comments like “stinking foreigners” and “we have to keep to our own kind” from the local town people. Nathan becomes increasingly lonely and sad. Then Arturo Tozzi, an Italian boy who works at the mine, tries to befriend Nathan. Nathan wants and needs a friend and Arturo wants to be A Real American by Richard Easton. These two boys start to develop a friendship when tragedy strikes at he coal mine. Can Nathan help Arturo? Can Nathan save the Tozzi family and the other Italian immigrants from losing their jobs and their homes?  Read A Real American to find out how two boys defy social barriers to build a courageous friendship.  (Becky Proctor,, library media specialist, Dorcester Academy, St. George, SC 29477)

SUBJECTS:   Farm life -- Pennsylvania -- Fiction.
                        Immigrants -- Fiction.
                        Coal mines and mining -- Fiction.
                        Friendship -- Fiction.
                        Pennsylvania -- Fiction. 


Permission is granted for the noncommercial duplication and use of this resource, provided it is substantially unchanged from its present form and appropriate credit is given.