Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Born and Bred in the Great Depression

Born and Bred in the Great Depression

Jonah Winter
Illustrator:  Kimberly Bulcken Root 
Historical Fiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Random House, 2011   ISBN: 978-0375861970

Rodgers Lee Winter lived in a little house near the railroad tracks in a town in Texas. Somehow ten people, eight children and two adults, managed to fit in the four small rooms. Somehow they managed to live without electricity and without indoor plumbing. The country was in the grip of a terrible economic downturn, which came to be called the Great Depression. Rodgers’ father did his best to find work so that he could feed his large family, but there were very few jobs to be had.

Even though his father did not earn much, Rodgers and his siblings had enough to eat. They had a kitchen garden that provided fresh vegetables, and they raised chickens, so there were eggs and friend chicken to eat. Rodgers’ mother was an indomitable woman who worked incredibly hard and who also had compassion for people who were hard up. When hoboes got off the trains, Mrs. Winter would feed them what she could spare, and they would leave white markings on the postbox to let other hoboes know that the Winters were good kind people.

Though the Winters were poor, they were still better off than many other people were in American at that time, and they had their little pleasures that brought light into their lives.

These days, it is hard to imagine that there was ever a time when America was in such a bad way that many thousands of people lost everything and became destitute. Often stories about what it was like to live through the Great Depression are dreadfully grim and painful. In this picture book we certainly see that side of the story; we hear about the hoboes and the Hoovervilles, the lack of work and the lack of money, but we also read about the courage of those who lived through those painful years. We see how they never forgot how to enjoy life’s simple joys, the kinds that don’t “cost a single penny.”

With a lovingly written text and beautiful illustrations, the author has written this book as a tribute to his father, and it is incredibly powerful and moving. Readers will see how a life can be very rich and full, even if you are poor.