The Dust Bowl.
David Booth. Illustrated by Karen Reczuch.
Grades 4 - 7 / Ages 9 - 12.
"A few of us farmers ploughed deep furrows around the fields to stop the earth from blowing away. Others thought it was hopeless to keep planting because their ploughs just turned up dry, fine dust that blew away in the wind. A few went to church and prayed for rain. For some, farming was becoming a slow way to starve."David Booth is the author and anthologist of more than thirty books. His works include Images of Nature: Canadian Poets and the Group of Seven and Doctor Knickerbocker although The Dust Bowl is his first picture book. Karen Reczuch is an accomplished illustrator whose previous books include Just Like New and The Auction, nominated for the 1991 Mr. Christie's Book Award.
This is a tale of the great drought of the 1930's. It captures readers' attention from the very beginning with its colourful and provocative cover, through to the many splendid illustrations, and wonderfully large print. The mood of uncertainty and impending doom is very cleverly crafted for its intended younger audience.
Though this story is about the almighty, invincible and unmerciful forces of Nature, the family is resolved to stick to its roots. "The rain will come. If not this year, then next year. We can hang on."
The fine illustrations and attention to historical details are a tribute to the many, many hours both author and illustrator have obviously spent researching for this wonderful picture book. "One big dust cloud blocked out the sun for days." There are shades of Barry Broadfoot's many years of gathering the stories from the prairies and of Sinclair Ross's intimate knowledge of the prairies. "She (Grandma) scrubbed her fingers to the bone, but the dust kept winning." All with one exception. This is a book for younger audiences. Although no bibliography is present, the author does acknowledge the works of several writers and historians.
The Dust Bowl should surely find a worthwhile niche in the curriculum of elementary to lower junior high language arts and social studies programmes. Students will quickly identify with Matthew, the young boy through whose eyes the story is revealed. Whether one lives in the timberlands, near the ocean, on the wheat fields, or in the orchards of Canada, this story with its hard work, uncertainty both in Nature, and in gaining a livelihood will ring true.
Floyd Spracklin is a Language Arts Department-Head at G.C. Rowe Junior High School in Corner Brook, NF. He has been teaching, writing, and reviewing literature for twenty-five years and has published a number of short stories, essays, and poems in Canadian magazines.
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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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