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The Dust Bowl Through the Lens: How Photography Revealed and Helped Remedy a National Disaster Hardcover – October 13, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 4–8—This excellent photo-essay traces the history of the Dust Bowl from its causes to its resolution. In tandem, Sandler treats the role of the budding field of photojournalism. Forty-four spreads feature a page of clear, direct text with a large, well-reproduced image, many of which are set on color pages. Many of these, such as Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother" and Arthur Rothstein's "Fleeing a Dust Storm," have become iconic. The author repeatedly makes the point that it was in large part the force of these pictures that motivated the Roosevelt administration to take action in aid of both Dust Bowl farmers and migrant workers. Seldom has the connection between the arts and the general quality of life been made so clear. The text deals equally with those who fled the decimated Bread Basket for California and those who waited out the devastation and dust. Throughout, the use of primary sources is superb, with quotations from affected citizens, the photojournalists themselves, political and entertainment figures, and writers, giving a multifaceted picture of a seminal time in United States history. This book gives a more general picture of the time than Jerry Stanley's Children of the Dust Bowl (Crown, 1993) and is focused more specifically than Russell Freedman's Children of the Great Depression (Clarion, 2005). It provides a lesson in strength and perseverance that is certainly applicable today.—Ann Welton, Helen B. Stafford Elementary, Tacoma, WA END

From Booklist

Sandler, whose previous books include America through the Lens (2005) and Lincoln through the Lens (2008), has found, in America’s Dust Bowl, a natural subject for the series’ photo-essay format. Well researched and dramatically illustrated, the book explains how settlement, farming methods, and weather together devastated the southern plains and, by extension, the people who lived there, how they reacted, how the government responded, how the Dust Bowl finally ended, and who created the photographic record of the period. Each double-page spread uses a heading and a period quote to open a new topic, discusses it in a few paragraphs of text, and illustrates it with a large photo and a small one. Detailed captions comment on the photos. Telling the story with intelligence and sensitivity, Sandler honors the people who lived through the disaster and the great photographers of the 1930s, who documented the dramatic story for the people of their own time and created a record that transcends that time. Grades 5-9. --Carolyn Phelan
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Series: Through the Lens
  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Childrens (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802795471
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802795472
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 0.5 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #463,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robin Benson on February 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I was rather disappointed with this book as it really doesn't live up to the title: Dust Bowl. Only the first thirty pages cover these extraordinary times in the southern Plains states, the remainder of the book deals with the Depression in the rest of the country.

The photographic aspect of the Dust Bowl is no more than twenty or so specific photos. Others are captioned to give the impression that they relate to the book's title but don't: page five has a whole page of Dorothea Lange's famous Migrant Mother photo, she was called Florence Thompson and left Oklahoma for California in 1925; a Ben Shahn photo on page thirty-two was taken in Arkansas; John Vachon's wonderful photo of four children and a baby on page forty is from 1940 in Missouri; page fifty-five has a young boy in a field, photographed in Oregon, 1939; the elderly laughing couple on page eighty-three was taken in Connecticut in 1940; a color photo of contour ploughing was taken in Tennessee. All these photos are from the FSA collection in the Library of Congress and they were meticulously captioned yet the author has chosen to leave out where they were taken and the dates. On page thirty-four there are four small reproductions of Norman Rockwell's 'Four Fredoms' paintings, the copy suggests they were inspired by a thirties speech given to Congress by President Roosevelt but they were painted in 1943, long after the Depression (and especially the Dust Bowl) had faded away and the Nation was back to full employment with a wartime economy.

Another disappointment with the book is the presentation.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mary Hollowell on November 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Dust Bowl Through the Lens is a gut-wrenching story that has not been told to this generation of American children. They will see Midwestern children in the 1930s battling dust storms, sitting on giant dunes, and overlooking dry devastated land. During the thickest dust storms, children hung wet sheets in windows, ate beneath tablecloths, and cleaned the noses of their livestock in order to survive. Adults sometimes wore face masks and goggles to prevent dust pneumonia. Readers will be moved by photos of dirty children traveling West in crowded Model-Ts.

The book culminates with much-needed rain. Sandler makes the cool rain almost palpable as he describes droplets hitting a relieved farmer's uplifted face. An image of a farm during and after the Dust Bowl is particularly vivid. The drought-stricken land recovers to host fields of healthy wheat. The federal government took action to help prevent such an ecological disaster from happening again. The Civilian Conservation Corps planted 3 billion trees to prevent erosion, and the Soil Conservation Service was established in Washington.

This multidisciplinary masterpiece blends history, science, and sociology. The very last page reinforces Sandler's most important message - one of inspiration. Americans can and have prevailed against the odds. The photographic portraits that he has chosen to end his book speak volumes. A tired little girl with a fierce expression, a weathered farmer with a slight smile, and a windblown woman who is concentrating are timeless images that resonate deeply.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Flamingnet Teen Book Reviews on February 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The Dust Bowl: possibly one of the United States's greatest
tragedies, in which the entire bread basket of the nation
ceased to exist. The Dust Bowl: Through the Lens, visually
chronicles the lives of the inhabitants of the Great Plains
as they try to get back on their feet. Mind-boggling photos
of once-fertile lands reduced to dust inhabit each page,
along with highly explanatory, well written captions to
further explain occurrences. The beginning of each passage
contains a quote from a local, some expressing sadness,
others hopefulness for the future. The final entries
explain the resolution of the nation after the Dust Bowl's
end to prevent such an event from occurring again.

The choice to use more pictures than words in the work make it
much more of a sensual experience for me. From the photos,
I could feel rub of dust on my hands and neck, and imagined
the broiling hot sun beating down on my back. Factual and
semi-stoic narrations separated the fact from the fiction,
however the quotes from inhabitants of the area brought the
entire act into perspective. The Dust Bowl is painful for
many to remember, but Martin Sandler creates an atmosphere
such that the pain is still there, but knowledge still
takes the upper hand. Although this was my first "Through
the Lens" experience, it will most certainly not be my
last; to use the old cliche, "I laughed, I cried." I
strongly recommend this book to high school students, as
well as adults. Although it is extremely factual, it is
certain that no reader will be bored.

Reviewed by a young adult student reviewer
Flamingnet Book Reviews
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