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Children of the Dust Bowl by Jerry Stanley

Children of the Dust Bowl

by Jerry Stanley

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  mshampson | Oct 17, 2014 |
This was a wonderful read. This is a true story of the 1930’s Dust Bowl that left a large part of the Midwest barren and inhospitable. This catastrophe forced thousands of “Oakies” to relocate to California, where many of them worked for nearly nothing just to watch their children starve. The desperation that these human beings suffered is hard to even think about, but what I found truly mind-blowing (I don’t know why) was the cruelty that Oakies suffered at the hands of the privileged California residents.

As an educator, the most valuable thing about this book was the model that it gave me of what a highly effective school looks like. I believe that there are many drawbacks to the way that schools have been run--where students are passive recipients of knowledge. This school that these amazing people built from the ground up is so incredible and inspiring. The Oakie school at Weedpatch Camp is unlike any other school that ever existed (to my knowledge) complete with an Olympic sized swimming pool, a farm, and even an airplane--incredible! While I know that it is a hopeless dream to imagine that schools could look like this in the future, it is the spirit of what Leo Hart, his staff, and the Oakie children accomplished at Weedpatch Camp, where school is very hands-on, active, sensitive to student competencies, and where everyone is accountable for themselves. I loved this book! I love the photographs in this book! They give me such a vivid sense of the times.

This book could be quite useful to me in an English classroom. It deals with concepts such as the environment, human destructiveness, social justice, class issues, and discrimination. It is a wonderful story that could hold the attention of many students. The one thing that I wish was expanded upon a bit more was the mention that there were only two African-American students who went to school at Weedpatch Camp. I would have liked to know some of the specifics of that situation. ( )
  epenton | May 5, 2014 |
The compelling story of the victims of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl in the Great Depression 1930s who traveled Route 66 seeking a better life as farm workers in California. Once they arrived, they found anything but a land of milk and honey, and were rejected by the Californians.

Enter School Superintendent Leo Hart, who saw a need in the form of children with no school to attend, and did something about it. An amazing story of compassion in the midst of neglect, illustrated with original historic photographs. A true Grapes of Wrath story. ( )
  jpmeehan | May 5, 2014 |
I love this book! It is such a inspiration for all readers, young and old. It is a true story about life in the Great Plains in 1930's and early '40's. It tells of farm laborers during the Great Depression and the long drought that plagued residents West of the Miss. river. The black and white photographs of the people, their homes and modes of transportaion add a level of depth that no words can describe. The pictures allow for the reader to connect and empathize with these children and families. I liked how the author kept his focus on one community and really showed the effects of the Dust Bowl. I feel this book is an excellent read for elementary grades 2 through 5.
  dbushnell3 | May 5, 2014 |
Jerry Stanley’s Children of the Dust Bowl is the story of a group of people who called themselves "Okies,” being from the Oklahoma area. However, the term later became a derogatory one for Californians to refer to the former Oklahoma residents, farm laborers who left their home and migrated there during the 1930's Great Depression and the long drought.

The book begins with an introduction to the Dust Bowl through reference to John Steinbeck, author of The Grapes of Wrath. It reveals Stanley’s prompt to write this work, which focuses on life for the "Okies" in California as they were discriminated against. They were forced to live in tents and their children were teased and bullied by local kids in school. Living conditions for the Okies were dreadful until counselor and educator Leo Hart decided to build the Weedpatch school. He recruited college educators to teach the Okies. The children even had a hand in building their school which established such a sense of community and togetherness for the evacuees. The school offered courses in all the basic academic studies but also prepared the Okies for life through home economic-type classes, agricultural courses and so much more.

The author includes tons of maps and photos to thoroughly express the trials and tribulations faced during this experience. There are direct quotes from Okies, particularly children, which help readers relate to exactly what they were feeling. One quote from a woman on page 34 reads “There’s more darn ‘Okies’ in California than white people,” as if the Caucasian people from Oklahoma were any different.

The photographs and their accompanying captions and tidbits of information, presented a powerful message to readers and helped explain the background information which set the stage for the tension-filled time period. Entirely in black and white, it shows the juxtaposition between the opposing sides of this social war, as I see it. The juxtaposition is also evident in the situation surrounding the creation of the Weedpatch school. Money and supplies were donated out of hatred, but ended up being the foundation of the school’s success. Hart used the hate from the Californians to sort of double-cross them. When they found out he wanted to build a school just for the Okies, they took it as an opportunity for segregation. This, of course, ultimately worked out just fine for the Okies.

This text is perfect for my middle school students and could be used in conjunction with other informative texts, like Out of the Dust and Grapes of Wrath, to teach an important time period. Great ELA lessons, like how language such as word choice has impacted race relations and discrimination. Discriminatory terms like Okie, and even the N word, could be examined. That discussion would lead to deeper discussions about language and negative connotations, etc.

While the writing isn't exactly entertaining or kid-friendly all the time (the word butch appears on pg.34), the story is told clearly and the quotes, photos and maps contribute so greatly to the text that it peaks readers’ interest.

The afterword present further knowledge to the reader about Leo Hart and his life after his hard work for the Okies. The bibliography offers readers the chance to more extensively research the topics discussed.
  kljohns8 | Apr 29, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0517880946, Paperback)

Illus. with photographs from the Dust Bowl era. This true story took place at the emergency farm-labor camp immortalized in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Ostracized as "dumb Okies," the children of Dust Bowl migrant laborers went without school--until Superintendent Leo Hart and 50 Okie kids built their own school in a nearby field.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:55 -0400)

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Describes the plight of the migrant workers who traveled from the Dust Bowl to California during the Depression and were forced to live in a federal labor camp and discusses the school that was built for their children.

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