Daily Bread by Antoinette Truglio Martin

Daily Bread

Antoinette Truglio Martin, Author

Red Penguin Books, Historical Fiction, Oct. 12, 2020

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Immigrants, New York City, Poverty, Child labor, Factories, Bullies


Set in New York City in 1911, the large Taglia family has immigrated from Sicily and is living in a three-room tenement on Mott Street in the Lower East Side.  Earning enough money to cover the rent and basic needs is an endless struggle for the Taglia family and they need all the help they can muster. The father works double shifts at the docks. The mother is very pregnant with her fourth child, refuses to learn English and depends on her daughters to translate and barter for her.

Spunky songbird Lily wants to help by baking Daily Bread at the Goldberg’s Bakery like big sister, Margaret. But Margaret says Lily is just a little kid, and there is more to baking Daily Bread than height and an artist’s heart. Lily learns to navigate in a grown-up world when facing bullies, disasters, loss, dotty bakers, and treacherous streets to cross by herself.

Why I like this book:

Antoinette Truglio Martin has crafted a beautiful work of historical fiction based on her own family’s early beginnings in America. The story is a very American story — one that so many of us share. Martin’s writing is polished and filled with vivid imagery of the sights and sounds of the period, which will captivate reader’s imaginations. Her plot is realistic and sobering, and her pacing is pitch perfect, which will keep readers fully engaged.

The characters are authentic and memorable. Twelve-year-old Margaret is the eldest. She’s a smart student and knows that education is her way out of poverty. She helps the family out by working at a bakery. Ten-year-old Lily loves to sing and wants to learn how to bake Daily Bread at the Goldberg’s bakery with her big sister. Mr. and Mrs. Goldberg are Russian immigrants, who create a safe place where neighborhood children can bake the Daily Bread for their families and only pay three cents for their loaf rather than five cents. They also teach them a skill. Their routine is laborious, with Margaret and Lily arriving at the bakery before dawn to mix and knead their dough and put it into a pan to rise. They head to school only to return on their lunch breaks to punch the air out of the dough, knead and reshape it into a round loaf.  Their loaf will be baked and ready for them to take home when they return after school. Margaret earns extra money by helping with bakery sales and has secrets of her own, if she can dodge her mother’s pressure to take a factory job. Lily is determined to help out too. She makes bakery deliveries and has to learn to outsmart bullies and stand up for herself.

The heart of Martin’s story comes from listening to her grandmother, and her sisters, tell stories about their early lives in the shabby tenements of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. They shared their stories around the dinner table or while cooking in the kitchen. Her family immigrated to the U.S. from Sicily in 1905. It was a tough time for immigrants, but they all had dreams of new lives. Make sure you read the Author’s Introduction and check out the Discussion and Writing Prompts and Research Project suggestions  at the end of the book. This is a great classroom book.

Antoinette Truglio Martin is a speech therapist and special education teacher by training but really wants to be a writer when she grows up. She has been collecting, writing, and fashioning stories forever. Over the years she has been a regular columnist in local periodicals and has several essays featured in newsletters and literary reviews. Her children’s picture book, Famous Seaweed Soup was published in 1993 by Albert Whitman Co. Antoinette’s memoir, Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer (She Writes Press 2017), chronicles her first year battling breast cancer as a wimpy patient. She proudly holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Stony Brook/Southampton University. Be sure to stop by her website and blog, Stories Served Around The Table, to read about past and present family adventures, book happenings, and musings.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a purchased copy.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

16 thoughts on “Daily Bread by Antoinette Truglio Martin

  1. I enjoy books that describe the immigrant experience and just wish I had taken the time to listen to my grandparents tell about their experiences as immigrant children in the early 1900s. It is important to learn about the struggles made in order for us to have a better life. Thanks for bringing this book to our attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is a fun book to curl up with because it makes you think about your own family history. I am also wished I had asked more questions of my grandparents and parents. My grandmother’s sister sent me letters in my late teens about family life and I lost them through many moves. My paternal grandparents were born in 1896 and maternal in 1900. But, they were second generation.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoy books about immigrants’ experiences too. Like Darlene, I wish I would have listened to my grandparents more, especially when my grandfather told me about coming here from Russia. This sounds like a great one. Thanks for recommending it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • My grandfather came to Canada from Russia too when he was 4 years old. He had great stories. Why didn’t I take the time to listen to them? I have some great photos though of the homestead, even of the ship that brought them over.


      • Yes. They were German and disagreed with the Bolsheviks so they had to leave or be killed. They had no holdings in Germany so immigrating to Canada was the best option. I was lucky to know my great-grandparents who braved the journey to a new country.


      • Is there any research you can do to come up with a MG story about your family, even if some of it is fictionalized? Their journey sounds amazing. Have you read Shelly Sander’s MG trilogy, Rachel’s Secret, The Promise and Rachel’s Hope. Pre-revolutionary Russia during the pogroms. Printed by Second Story Press, Canada. I loved this series. Based on her family’s journey — fleeing through Siberia. You just might like this series — and they may inspire you! I reviewed them, so you can read my reviews or check them out on Amazon.


  3. I have plans to read this book, but my review schedule was full through May. I’m so glad to see the story given recognition by you and other bloggers. The time period and characters are what draws me in. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.


  4. I’ve seen a few reviews of this book, and it really does sound excellently written! I’ve seen the author around the blogosphere, and I love that it’s inspired by her own family history. Thanks for the great review!


  5. I really enjoyed this book as well for all the reasons you mentioned. And you are right — it is a very American story. I hope it gets a lot of readers. It deserves to. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


    • I remember you really enjoyed her book. So happy to give it some more book love. I studied with the author at Southampton Children’s Literary Conference in 2012. Such a lovely and talented woman.


  6. I love learning about history through historical fiction! Thanks for sharing this one. It sounds like a great one to encourage children to explore their own histories.


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