Moss doesn't have a job, an education, or much in the way of purpose until he lies about his age and joins Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps.
During the Great Depression, seventeen-year-old Moss Trawnley is his family's sole breadwinner. When he gets fired, he "rides the rails" in search of his father. Both land in jail and the justice of the peace urges Moss to join the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to acquire job skills. Moss enrolls, and although the conditioning is grueling and the discipline strict, he perseveres. After basic training, Moss and his buddies begin building a camp in Montana that will focus on restoring depleted farmland. They work feverishly to complete construction, and Moss's leadership earns him a promotion, much to the dismay of Bill Compton, his junior leader. When spring arrives, the CCC deepens a pond and creates a spillway to control erosion. But heavy rains fill up the reservoir and chunks of concrete break loose. Only extraordinary efforts by the CCC prevent a disaster. His relationship with girlfriend Beatty finally on solid ground, Moss re-enlists for another hitch. Although Ingold's book provides a detailed depiction of President Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps, it lacks dramatic tension. The conflict between Moss and Compton is an aside to the fleshed-out descriptions of CCC activities and conservation projects. The characters are one-dimensional, and even Moss is somewhat lackluster. His tentative relationship with Beatty adds no romantic sparks either. As a historical documentary story, however, the book gives vivid snapshots of the Great Depression and earns a spot in a school's media center. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P M J (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9).2005, Harcourt, 288p., $17. Ages 11 to 15.