Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

No promises in the wind

No promises in the wind

Irene Hunt
Historical Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Penguin, 2002   ISBN: 978-0425182802

Ever since the Depression began and since his father lost his job, life has been hard in Josh’s home. Often his father takes out his frustration on Josh and the two quarrel. There is not a great deal of food to go around and after a particularly unpleasant altercation with his dad Josh decides that the time has come to leave home. Though he is only fifteen, Josh’s mother agrees that perhaps it would be for the best. So Josh goes to see his best friend Howie and the two boys make their plans. Of course it isn’t long before Josh’s younger brother Joey is insisting they he is going to join them. The three boys hope that they will be able to make a living for themselves by making music. Howie is a talented banjo player and Josh is a marvelous pianist.

Unfortunately they have barely started when Howie is killed while trying to get on a moving train. Traumatized by this horrific event, Josh and Joey nevertheless decide to keep on going. They quickly discover how hard it is to live as tramp boys. They beg and steal, and on occasion Josh even raids garbage cans looking for scraps of food to eat. Starvation is never very far and sometimes Josh staggers under the responsibility of looking after his little brother.

Then the boys meet a kindly trucker called Lonnie who takes them under his wing. Lonnie takes the boys south where it is warmer and he helps Josh get a job as a piano player in a carnival. It is not a great job but the money is more than Josh has dreamed of earning, the food is plentiful, and the boys have a roof over their heads. All is going well until a fire puts an end to it all. Once again the boys have to go out on the road. This time though they decide to go and see Lonnie. They at least have a goal. Perhaps Lonnie will be able to help Josh find another job. Perhaps Lonnie will know of a place where they can stay for a while.

In this often heartbreaking story, readers will find out what it was like for the thousands of children who left their homes during the Depression years and who ended up riding the rails, hitching, and walking their way across the United States. It is hard to know how many of these lost souls died of exposure, disease, and malnutrition. Many had accidents on the trains, just like Howie did in this story. Many others, like Joey and Josh, somehow managed to survive. They found jobs where they could, and they relied on handouts and on their scavenging skills to get by.

Beautifully written by a Newbery Award winning author, this is a title that readers will remember long after they have finished it and set it on a shelf.