As he did for frontier children in his enormously popular Children of the Wild West, Russell Freedman illuminates the lives of the American children affected by the economic and social changes of the Great Depression. Middle-class urban youth, migrant farm laborers, boxcar kids, children whose families found themselves struggling for survival . . . all Depression-era young people faced challenges like unemployed and demoralized parents, inadequate food and shelter, schools they couldn’t attend because they had to go to work, schools that simply closed their doors. Even so, life had its bright spotslike favorite games and radio showsand many young people remained upbeat and optimistic about the future.
Drawing on memoirs, diaries, letters, and other firsthand accounts, and richly illustrated with classic archival photographs, this book by one of the most celebrated authors of nonfiction for children places the Great Depression in context and shows young readers its human face. Endnotes, selected bibliography, index.
Freedman, author of the Newbery Medal-winning Lincoln: A Photobiography, tackles the Great Depression with the same flair as he does in his previous books. He creates a vivid visual picture of what life during the period was like for children with pictures from esteemed Depression-era photographers, such as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and Russell Lee, and incorporates abundant quotes from real children, including the particularly poignant experiences of African-Americans, who were "the last hired and the first fired." Freedman also lightens the mood with humorous touches, such as one girl's letter to Eleanor Roosevelt in which she requested a loan and "solemnly pledge[d] to pay you back within 2 years." From Hoovervilles-the ramshackle settlements on the outskirts of cities-to migrant families forced out of their homes by a "black blizzard" of dust, to boxcar kids who took to the nation's rails to escape deprivation at home, Freedman captures the historical scope of young lives during the Great Depression. His portrayal is at once bleak and uplifting, painting a picture of children without food because, in the words of one girl, "It's my sister's turn to eat," but also of young Americans determined to survive. The book's final pages assume a sanguine note, reminding readers that these children were courageously optimistic. They found joy in little pleasures, such as the movies and their favorite radio shows, and never stopped believing that that life would be better one day. Ages 9-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.