Child labor in sweatshops was a common practice in America in the 1800s and early 1900s. Unfortunately, it still exists in some countries today. In her book Boys Without Names, Kashmira Sheth imagines the story of one eleven-year-old boy tricked into working in a sweatshop in India.
Author: Kashmira Sheth
Genre: contemporary realistic fiction
Age group: middle grade
Synopsis: Eleven-year-old Gopal lives in a small village in India with his parents and twin younger siblings. In order to free themselves from their poverty, they pack their few belongings to move to the city of Mumbai. However, Gopal’s dad disappears along the way. Gopal manages to get his mom and siblings to his uncle’s home in Mumbai, but he knows he must earn money to help pay for their food and his schooling. When another boy tells him of a possible job, Gopal is tricked into working in a sweatshop where the owner does not allow the boys to talk or even use their real names. The boys are forced to work for no money and little food. Late one night, Gopal begins to tell the other boys stories, and he realizes that these stories may be the key to their escape.
I enjoyed this book, and I know at least one of my students read it this summer and also enjoyed it. For most kids, it will be a real eye-opener as to what children in other countries endure. Gopal’s simple existence illuminates just how extravagant our American homes really are. When Gopal moves into his uncle’s home, he is amazed to see a small TV there. However, he doesn’t turn it on for fear he might not do it correctly and accidentally break it.