Digging a Hole to Heaven Coal Miner Boys

Digging a Hole to Heaven

Coal Miner Boys

  • ISBN: 9781419707308
  • Publication Date: September 2, 2014


Price: $19.95

Award-winning author and illustrator S. D. Nelson reveals the grim realities of child labor in the coal mining industry in this unique picture book

Conall is only twelve years old, but he’s already worked in the coal mines of Pennsylvania for several years. He spends his days deep underground with his faithful mule, Angel, carting loads of coal from the coal seams to the main shaft. There, elevators take the coal up to the surface. One day a tunnel collapses, and his brother and other miners are trapped on the wrong side! Will Conall and Angel be able to save them?

In this historical fiction, through the use of both archival images and his original artwork, acclaimed author and illustrator S. D. Nelson gives voice to the child laborers of our nation’s past and to children today who face poverty, grueling labor, and dangerous work conditions. Backmatter includes a brief history of the Industrial Revolution, Robber Barons, and child labor laws.


"The narrative comes alive with colorful descriptions, such as stout timbers that groan and a “massive mountain...forever leaning in upon itself.” Beautiful textured paintings rendered in the style of 19th-century Plains Indian drawings, with acrylic on wood panels, accompany the narrative."
School Library Journal, Toby Rajput, National Louis University, Skokie, IL

"The vivid narrative is valuable in helping readers understand not just the facts but also the experiences of miners in late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century America."
Booklist, Carolyn Phelan

"The illustrations...are alive, historically accurate, expressive, and realistically rendered."
Library Media Connection, Marion Mueller, Library Media Consultant, Rawhide Starr Academy, New London, Wisconsin

"Nelson’s acrylic-paint illustrations are gritty and realistic; more evocative still are the historical photographs that appear on nearly every page. A useful and thorough piece of work combining fiction and nonfiction, with an extensive author’s note detailing the history of coal mining."
Kirkus Reviews

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