Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan is a powerful story about a rich and spoiled Mexican girl whose sudden impoverishment in the 1930s takes her in to the migrant worker camps of California. It teaches much about the Great Depression as well as discrimination during that period. Continue Reading
The easily accessible text and the fun related activities make The Great Depression for Kids by Carol Mullenbach (Chicago Review Press, July 2015) a fantastic choice for the young student in upper elementary school or older that is interested in learning more about the era in our history. The text covers life before the Great Depression, the causes of the Great Depression, and then life during the Great Depression, both in cities and rural areas. It ends as it talks about how the nation recovered at the start of Word War II. Each chapter in The Great Depression for Kids covered a lot of information, but I felt it easily accessible to the younger reader.
This volume includes 21 activities related to the things happening in the text. For example, there is an explanation on how to “play the stock market” when the text talks about the stock market crash. Paper airplane making is the activity as kids learn about the new developments during the era. An erosion experiment is the activity during the chapter about the dust bowl. In all, the activities seem like simple but engaging ones for upper elementary students to enjoy doing!
As a personal note, I found myself wishing I’d asked my grandparents more about the era before they passed away. The book contained lots of details about life during the era, but I know my grandparent’s stories were unique. It’s interesting how this definitive historical era is now so distant from children’s lives today, even though it was only three generations ago.
Note: I read a digital copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (1998 Newbery Medal Winner) is a young adult novel in poetry about the difficulties of dust bowl living in the 1930s. A changing industry, magnified by severe drought and the Great Depression, meant that farming in rural Oklahoma was more difficult than ever. But Billie’s difficulties are compounded. It’s hard enough being on the brink of womanhood, but when tragedies strike, nothing will ever be the same again.
In The Grapes of Wrath (published 1939), John Steinbeck captured the lives of his contemporary Americans, those living at or below the poverty line in the midst of the Great Depression. While the Joads’ migrant story was moving and I came to love many of the family members, The Grapes of Wrath is so much more than the story of one family. In between the narrative sequences about the Joad family, Steinbeck writes more general descriptive chapters about the fate of masses of migrants uprooted from their homes during the Dust Bowl and forced to search for work in California amidst thousands of other displaced workers. The Grapes of Wrath is about an entire people of otherwise unrecognized poor in our nation’s history.
This is why we keep reading it, even 70 years later. While the plight of poor workers has hopefully improved by today, the unnoticed poor still need a voice. Reading The Grapes of Wrath gives historical perspective, but it also reminds us that there is a majority that is often not represented in literature. Continue Reading