Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Journal of C.J. Jackson: A Dust Bowl Migrant

The Journal of C.J. Jackson: A Dust Bowl Migrant

William Durbin
Historical Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Scholastic, 2002   ISBN: 978-0439153065

Getting bitten by a rattle snake is a frightening experience for a boy. C.J is quietly minding his own business when he gets bitten and he doesn't get any warning from the snake either. As it happens, C.J ends up not getting that sick from the bite thanks to his parents' quick thinking. What is happening around him is much worse than any snake bite for C.J and his family are living in Oklahoma in the middle of what was to be called "The Dust Bowl." Crops have failed, there is a drought, and horrendous dust storms sweep across the land leaving havoc and misery in their wake.

C.J's family are losing, one at a time, the things that matter to them; Grandpa dies from dust pneumonia, the garden is eaten by rabbits, the windmill stops working, and the last crop that they planted fails. With heavy hearts C.J's father sells the livestock and the family packs up. They are off to California where they have read that there are lots of jobs to be had picking fruit and vegetables. The hope is that they will be able to earn enough to pay for the taxes on their farm and, when things gets better, move back to Oklahoma to farm their land once more.

C.J and his family soon find out that what they read about jobs being plentiful in California was untrue. They have a desperate time trying to keep the family fed and with a roof over their heads. To make matters worse, the Californians are not at all happy to have all these "Okies" coming to their state. The family are subjected to verbal and physical abuse which makes their suffering that much harder to bear.

It is hard to imagine that the United States went through such a terrible period for so many years; that so many people were victims of the weather and a financial catastrophe the like of which had never been seen before. William Durbin does a masterful job in bringing his extremely likeable character to life, adding the historical details which sets the mood of the times. C.J's 'voice' complete with the vernacular of his people, comes through very clearly and we cannot help feeling proud of this boy who never lets go of his dreams and faces the challenges of his times with such courage and good cheer.

This is one of the "My Name is America" books.