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
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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 RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved