Review: Amazon.com - December 24, 2001
This slim volume is one of three young adult books written by Alvena Seckar, whose parents emigrated from Slovakia to the US at the turn of the century. Seckar writes about the hard life in the coal mining camps back then and how the Slovak community bands together for strength and survival. Like her other two books, Misko was originally published in the 1950s and then reissued in 1999 by Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, well known promoters of Slovak culture. Thanks to the resurrection of these stories, modern readers can get an idea of the hardships and dangers shouldered by our brave forebears. Mining communities could be dangerous places back then (and even today) and Seckar's stories describe the unsafe conditions these immigrants often had to work under. Misko is a delightful mixture of other things as well: a love story, a fairy tale cottage and a morality tale, all woven together. Unlike her other two books, though, Misko's theme is heavily Lithuanian, as reflected in the Salitinis and Gabus' families. The camp is a diverse community, though, with an Italian family playing an important role as well. The theme of brotherhood shines through in Misko, echoed in the sentiments of Mr. Gabus: "We're all brothers somewhere down the line whether we're Indians from India, Indians from America or Lithuanians from Russia!" Seckar offers up other timeless wisdoms, like Misko's befriending of the "crippled" Leo (who suffers from cerebral palsy) and Frank's sympathy for the bullies who taunt Leo: "They just need someone to take an interest in them and keep them occupied." As the book was written in the 1950s, some of the language is dated ("swell" or "sore") but at any rate, Mrs. Verna's belief that "happiness is found doing good for others" is timeless advice for us all. B&W illustrations included.