Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

We the People: The Great Depression

We the People: The Great Depression

Michael Burgan
For ages 8 to 10
Compass Point Books, 2001   ISBN: 978-0756501525

In the 1920’s people in America were thriving. Americans were earning more and spending more than ever before and when they did not have enough money to buy one of the many new gadgets that were on the market, they would use credit to get what they wanted. Everything seemed to be going so well though there were problems beneath the surface which would, in time, become all too obvious.

While all this happy spending was going on, many Americans bought stocks on the stock market, often borrowing heavily to do so. No one thought much about how risky this behavior was. At least they didn’t until October 29th, 1929 when the stock market collapsed.

This “crash” brought the underlying problems to the surface. Suddenly the unemployment problems which had been building for some time came to the fore and furthermore the situation escalated at a terrifying pace. Farmers found that they could not sell their crops and companies could not sell their products because people were suddenly afraid to spend money. When people tried to get their money out of banks they often found that the banks had shut down. Many businesses also closed.

The “depression” made the American government realize that the country could not stumble through this calamity without some intervention. By 1932 twelve million people were unemployed and many of these people had families to feed. The situation was desperate and yet very little was being done. Indeed very little was done while Herbert Hoover was president. It was only when Franklin Delano Roosevelt came into office in 1932 that improvements began to be made.

With his “New Deal” plan FDR set about doing what he could to help the victims of the Great Depression. It was a struggle because there were so many problems to solve. Not only were there economic ones but there were also environmental ones as well. Because of poor farming practices and a long term drought, a massive “dust bowl” made farming in the central plains states impossible and many of the farmers from this region had to move away. FDR also had to deal with members of the government who did not like his policies and who did their best to undo what he was doing. In the end it was World War II which really pulled the United States out of the Great Depression for good.

This is yet another excellent title in the “We the People” series. Using a writing style which is both easy to follow and interesting to read Michael Dugan explains why the Great Depression occurred and how it unfolded. Young readers will come to understand how people changed their ideas about the need for government intervention in times of national crisis. Clearly there are times when the government needs to step in to help the people who are trouble.