Thursday, October 10, 2002

The Great Depression (United States, 1930s)

Blue Willow by Doris Gates
1940, Scholastic, 154 pages, softcover

Blue Willow is the endearing story of ten-year-old Janey Larkin, whose family is struggling to make ends meet in California's Central Valley during the Great Depression. Janey and her family have a few treasured possessions which they've dragged along with them from place to place because of the difficulties in finding work. Janey's beautiful blue willow plate is her greatest treasure, but when tough times get worse, she decides to offer it as payment for her family's rent...

This is a beautiful picture of family life in difficult times as well as offering a portrait of the Great Depression and lesser-known parts of "old" California. The story will probably be best appreciated (possibly as a read-aloud) for grades 1-4.

Reviewed by Alicia Van Hecke (10-21-03)
Available from Our Father's House

Kit: An American Girl by Valerie Tripp
A series of six historical fiction titles from the time of the Great Depression
2001, Pleasant Company Publications, 68 pages (each book), softcover

This series of six books from the American Girl collection can be enjoyed by young girls even without getting into buying the doll and all her accessories. Set in Ohio in the 1930s, this series focuses on Kit Kittredge and her family who are learning to be more frugal and caring during the tough times of the Great Depression. These are sweet stories and fairly easy for young readers (as young as six or seven years old). The stories are filled with nice little lessons about the things that really matter.

Reviewed by Alicia Van Hecke (10-21-03)

Survival in the Storm: The Dust Bowl Diary of Grace Edwards by Katelan Janke
2002, Scholastic, 186 pages, hardcover

My ten year old daughter has been enjoying the Dear America series from Scholastic. I believe that they've had a positive effect on her character (particular in the "complaint" department) as the stories focus on girls about her age living in difficult times. As they're written by a number of different authors, please don't take this review as an endorsement of all of the titles.

Survival in the Storm is the fictional story (in the format of a diary) of twelve-year old Grace Edwards who lives in Dalhart, Texas - a city near the center of the five-state area hardest hit by the infamous droughts and dust storms that plagued the Southwest for nearly a decade during the Great Depression.

The story provides a nice balance of family stability amidst hardships that give children today a fair look at the challenges of life in that time period. Grace volunteers at a hospital alongside her mother where the reader learns of the terrible illnesses associated with the dust storms. Families band together to help each other when hard times come and many leave for the "promised land" of California, only to be stuck in migrant camps where conditions are no better than at home. Throughout the story, virtues of perseverance and kindness are shown to be the things that "get people through" tough times.

Reviewed by Alicia Van Hecke (10-13-03)

No comments: