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The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Ten Cents a Dance
y Christina Fletcher

Publishing Information: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books: New York, 2008
ISBN: 9781599901640 / 97815999004627
: 356 p.
Ages: 13 & Up

With her mother ill, it’s up to fifteen-year-old Ruby Jacinski to support her family. But in the 1940s, the only opportunities open to a Polish-American girl from Chicago’s poor Yards is a job in one of the meat packing plants. Through a chance meeting with a local tough, Ruby lands a job as a taxi dancer and soon becomes an expert in the art of “fishing”: working her patrons for meals, cash, clothes, even jewelry. Drawn ever deeper into the world of dance halls, jazz, and the mob, Ruby gradually realizes that the only one who can save her is herself. A mesmerizing look into a little known world and era.

Book Talk:
In the 1940's, fifteen-year-old Ruby chooses to leave school and support her family when her mother becomes too disabled to continue as the family breadwinner.

Finding the meatpacking business dirty and repugnant, Ruby secretly takes a job as a taxi dancer, giving lessons to men for ten cents a dance. She loves the glamorous gowns and the swing beat of the jazz music at the hall, but she soon learns that there is a fine line between taxi dancing and the events that go on after the dances are over.

When World War II takes over the country, Ruby is forced to make a decision that will alter her future.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Curriculum Links:

Family Relationships
Treatment of Women
World War II

Contemporary Issues: Poverty
History: World War II
Psychology: Ethics, Family, Relationships

Awards & Reviews:
Bulletin Blue Ribbons, 2008
Texas Tayshaas Reading Lists, 2010
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2009

Booklist¸ July 1, 2008, p.57
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, May 1, 2008
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2008
Publishers Weekly
, April 21, 2008, p. 53
School Library Journal
, April 1, 2008, p.140
VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates
, August 1, 2008

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. What would you do if you were faced with Ruby’s situation?
  2. How valuable is an education now?  How valuable was it in the 1940s?
  3. What were some of the other avenues Ruby could have taken?
  4. Why do you think that working in mills and factories was so difficult?
  5. What needed to happen with the management of factories?
  6. Name some work situations today that may promote the same conditions
  7. Discuss the conditions and the solutions to problems in factories today. 
  8.  What do you know about life in the 1940s?  Economically, Politically?  Socially?
  9. How do you view Ruby’s future?
  10. Discuss Ruby’s decision to lie to her mother?  Was that a good decision?  Why or why not?
  11. How do you view Ruby’s relationship with her mother and her sister?
  12. What characteristics does Ruby have?
  13. What is your opinion of the dance hall job? 
  14. What problems did Ruby face while at the dance hall?
  15. How would you describe Chicago and the section where Ruby lived in the 1940s?  Do those living conditions exist today?  How do we try to deal with similar conditions today?

Related Websites:
Author's Website -
African American Workers in 1940's Chicago -
Chicago Stock Yards & More -
Dance Hall -
Filipino Americans During World War II -
Law and Labor Issues -
Period Photographs -
StreetSwing's Dance History Archives: Dime a Dance Girls -
Teacher Unit on the Chicago Meatpacking Industry -
Working Conditions-

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Chill Wind by Janet McDonald, 2002
Freaky Green Eyes by Joyce Carol Oates, 2003
Hannah’s Daughters by Marianne Fredriksson, 1999
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, 1906
The Lowell Mill Girls
by JoAnne B. Weisman (ed.), 1991
by Katherine Paterson, 1991
Maggie, Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane, 1893
Marie, Dancing by Carolyn Meyer, 2005 (2008 RITBA Nominee)
Mills and Factories of New England by Serge Hambourg, 1988
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer, 1986
Postcards from No Man’s Land by Aidan Chambers, 2002
We Are the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates, 1996

Other Books by the Author:
Telulah Falls, 2006

About the Author:
As an unknown with only one short story credit, Christine Fletcher wrote a query letter for her first book that got her out of the slush pile and onto the roster of a New York literary agency. She has since published two young adult novels, Ten Cents a Dance and Tallulah Falls, which was named a Book for the Teen Age by the New York Public Library. She is currently working on her third novel while practicing veterinary medicine part-time.

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair