Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

We the People: The Dust Bowl

We the People: The Dust Bowl

Ann R. Heinrichs
For ages 8 to 10
Compass Point Books, 2005   ISBN: 978-0756508371

It is hard to imagine today what it must have been like to live in the Great Plains region during the 1930s. Much of Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, North Dakota and South Dakota were disaster areas. The states adjoining them were not much better off. Terrible sandstorms whipped across the land blotting out the sun. Houses and other buildings were filled with drifts of soil. What few crops there were died. Animals starved or suffocated. People got sick. Farms failed and the farming families that depended on them went under.

How could such a thing happen? It began because people just did not know how to manage prairie land wisely. They used the land without thinking about the need for it to recover and regenerate. They did not consider soil conservation and erosion became widespread. Bit by bit topsoil began to get washed or blown away. To add to this already bad situation a drought began in 1931 and it lasted for eight long years. Under these circumstances few plants could survive. Without plants, there was nothing to hold the soil down and when winds came, the soil simply blew away.

As if this wasn't bad enough for farmers in this region, the worst financial depression in history hit the country in the late 1920's. Banks failed and people all over America lost their savings overnight. Farmers in the Dust Bowl region had lost their crops and their livestock and now they had no savings to fall back on. Some farmers decided to make a fresh start elsewhere. The packed up what they could and moved to another state where they hoped they would find work. But, because of the Depression, work was hard to find. Many Dust Bowl refugees went to California. Often they lived in shanty towns and went from place to place finding work picking fruits and vegetables where they could. The conditions were terrible and the pay insufficient.

Then there were the farmers who simply did not have the means to move. For them the battle was long and hard but help was at hand. President Roosevelt set up agencies which helped the farmers get back on their feet by showing them what they could do to get their land back into production again. It took time, but in the end the farmers were able to get the soil to stay where it belonged and once again they had crops in their fields.

This “We the people” title perfectly tells the story of one of America’s greatest natural disasters. The author not only explains why this terrible event came about, but she also helps her readers see how the Dust Bowl impacted the lives of millions of people. Readers will come to see how the victims of the Dust Bowl were further impacted by the Great Depression and how hard it was for recovery to take place because of the Great Depression. Full of period photographs and other illustrations, this is a book which will give younger readers an excellent picture of one of America’s more significant historical events.