Together in Pinecone Patch
written and illustrated by Thomas F. Yezerski
32 pp., full-color illustrations
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998
The story of Together in Pinecone Patch begins during the 1880’s, in Ireland and Poland. Keara Buckley suffers with her family in Ireland as does Stefan Pazik with his family in Poland. Both families journey to America, where they find themselves together in the Pennsylvania coal-mining town of Pinecone Patch. The Buckleys and Paziks live in separate neighborhoods and Keara and Stefan inherit the ethnic prejudices of their parents. The children’s first meeting ends in Keara’s sticking out her tongue. The dreary town and their grueling lives wear Keara and Stefan down as they grow up, but they realize they are in this sooty mess together. Shared cups of tea lead to a forbidden romance that is destined to shake things up.
- Notable Social Studies Books For Young People – National Council for the Social Studies and the Children’s Book Council
- Children’s Books of Distinction – Riverbank Review
- Junior Library Guild Selection
- Living the Dream Award nominee – Manhattan P.S. 198
Together in Pinecone Patch is partly true. My Dad is of Polish descent and my Mom is of Irish descent. They grew up and married in a coal-mining town. The prejudices at that time weren’t as obvious for them as for Keara and Stefan, but the town they lived in still has different ethnic neigborhoods. Most people who have read the book tell me they have similar stories from their own families.
Kids have asked me some great questions about the book, such as “Where did you get the names of the main characters?” The answer is that I visited the cemetary in the town where my parents grew up and looked at the tombstones of people who lived around the time of the story.
I found much of the information I used in Together in Pinecone Patch at the Anthracite Heritage Museum in Scranton, the Eckley Miners Village, and in The Kingdom of Coal, by Donald L. Miller and Richard E. Sharpless, an excellent book covering the industry, history and culture of the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania.