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Dust to Eat: Drought and Depression in the 1930s Hardcover – April 19, 2004

4.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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100 Young Adult Books to Read in a Lifetime
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-7–Despite its descriptions of dust and drought, this book is anything but dry. While it includes background information on the Great Depression and the Roosevelt administration's response, the text's strength is the very human face it puts on the overwhelming tragedy of the Dust Bowl years. The flowing narrative draws deeply from letters by and interviews with those who lived through this disastrous period, as well as from the work of John Steinbeck and Woody Guthrie. Cooper focuses on the physical struggle to survive, describing the harsh conditions in migrant camps, especially for the children who worked alongside their parents in the fields and often died of disease and malnutrition. The author follows the exodus from the Great Plains to California along Route 66, lacing the narrative with poems and song lyrics from the era. Of particular interest is his discussion of the grassroots effort on the part of native Californians to force the migrants to return to their home states. Archival black-and-white photographs, many taken by Dorothea Lange, grace most pages and illustrate the desperation and despair of the "Okies." Well-documented source notes are provided for each chapter. A good companion work is Jerry Stanley's poignant Children of the Dust Bowl (Random, 1992).–Joyce Adams Burner, Hillcrest Library, Prairie Village, KS
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 5-8. With lots of stunning black-and-white archival photos and a clear, spacious text that draws on eloquent eyewitness reports--including comments from John Steinbeck and Woody Guthrie--this small, handsome photo-essay tells the history of the Dust Bowl and the drought that drove desperate families to California in search of work. There are already lots of books on the Depression for older readers, some of which Cooper discusses in his chatty chapter source notes at the back, but this one brings the history close to middle graders. The numerous photos are unforgettable. Many are by Dorothea Lange, who shows the despair of destitute migrant families on the road. Just as dramatic are the facts about the dust storms (on one day about 350 million tons of dirt blew 2,000 miles eastward) and about the refugees who fled, "burned out, blown out, and starved out." With the exception of a few spelling errors in the bibliography, which are scheduled for correction in the second printing, this is an excellent historical account. Give it to older readers as well. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1120L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books; First Edition edition (April 19, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618154493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618154494
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #240,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael L. Cooper is a writer living in Louisville, Kentucky. For more information about him and his books visit michaellcooper.com. Thanks. MLC

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
After hearing author on NPR, ordered Mr. Cooper's book and found it to be a concise and poignant account. I recommend it highly. Not a pleasant "read," but the book helped me gain new appreciation for the grit (no pun intended) of those who lived through one of the most-challenging periods of American history. Left me feeling thankful my grandparents resided outside the most affected Dust Bowl areas.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very well written, gritty little slice of American history. If you even wondered why people like me don't like the term "Okie", this book will explain it. If you can read this book and not feel deeply for those folks who went through the Dust Bowl of the early 30's, you have a granite heart. Highly recommended, especially for young people who are used to having it all right now.
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Format: Hardcover
I had family who went through the Dust Bowl out in the Oklahoma Panhandle and Southwest Kansas, so I've always been interested in anything to do with the "Dirty Thirties." The same friend who recommended Timothy Egan's THE WORST HARD TIME (non-fiction) and Robert Boyd Delano's awesome THE HAPPY IMMORTALS (fiction), told me about Michael Cooper's DUST TO EAT. All are rooted in the "Dusters."

Kudos to each of these powerful authors who have brought the people of the Dust Bowl alive!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book has plenty of black and white pictures with chapters about the information regarding the Dust Bowl era, the California migration, the Great Depression, and about life during this difficult time with the Dust Bowl period.

The Dust Bowl came about when billions of tons of loose soil blew across the Southern Plains in the United States. The Dust Bowl or Black Blizzard storms were disastrous not only to ecology but to the survivors, residents, and people in the Southern Plains. Many suffered and died from Dust Bowl Pneumonia.

The book is well-designed with a good layout for young readers or those who don't know much about the Dust Bowl. This book is a good, solid introduction.
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Format: Hardcover
Michael L. Cooper's description of the twin tragedy in the book Dust to Eat doesn't just explain a trying time in our own American history, but with the start of the crash of the stock market kicking in the Great Depression that lead to the Dust Bowl which consumed the great plains. This story tells us that misfortune can happen to anyone at any given time. The characters in this book are not fictional; they are real stories about our past ancestors. There is a quote in the book that really caught my attention that made me feel like I could really feel what people were going through "It fell across the city, like a curtain of black rolled down, we thought it was our judgment, we thought it was our doom". To me that seems like our ancestors did not think that they would last through the storm. While this book gives great detail about the story it provides visual photographs from the Library of Congress combined with captions and descriptions of how it is related to the passage. In the back of the book are other sources of interest that relate to prior during, and post events in American history. Overall this book was enlightening and very well written. Michael L. Cooper provided a well described era that invoked personal opinions and tragic facts. I would recommend this book to anyone who desires to know what our forefathers went through to give us the life we have now.
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Format: Hardcover
As a musician who tours at least 200 days out of every year and spends time in the studio when I'm not on the road, I find that if I don't keep a number of interesting books with me on the road, my brain completely turns to mush.

One of the books I read recently was The Happy Immortals, a great novel set partially in the Dust Bowl years.

I'd traveled through and flown over the Oklahoma Panhandle many times, but didn't know a lot about the area or what this land had gone through.

Anyway, the interest from that novel led to a search for historical books about the Dust Bowl, including this one by Michael L. Cooper.

Dust to Eat is a great, sad, gritty, real, sometimes overwhelming, unforgettable, and intense read.

Kudos to the Mr. Cooper for a job well done!

BTW, two more excellent historical books on the Dust Bowl and the Oklahoma Panhandle are Letters from the Dust Bowl and Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s.
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