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Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp (edition 1993)

by Jerry Stanley

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Title:Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp
Authors:Jerry Stanley
Info:Crown Books for Young Readers (1993), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 96 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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Children of the Dust Bowl by Jerry Stanley

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Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp by Jerry Stanley recounts the stories of “Oakie” children and their lives growing up in labor camps in the 1920s-1930s. These migrant workers from Oklahoma, Texas, and elsewhere in the Dust Bowl were forced to uproot their families to escape the horrible droughts and poor soil quality that plagued the Midwest. Over one million migrants traveled from their Midwestern farms to the great “Cali-for-ny-a” in hopes of securing jobs and a new life for their families. I found it interesting that the author’s note discussed the choice to use the term “Oakie” for the migrant workers: “The term ‘Oakie’ is used in this book as the Oakies used it in the 1930s and still do today. Although used by others as a term of abuse, to the Oakies themselves it meant pride, courage, and a determination to accept hardship without showing weakness.” Californians looked upon the Oakies with disdain; they were seen as poor, uneducated “dumb Oakies”. Californian farmers refused to give the migrants, many of whom lived in labor camps, any extra food, despite the fact that starvation and sickness were common problems. Despite this, the Oakies were proud and strong. I enjoyed the story of how these people who quite literally came from nothing but dirt raised themselves up and built a school in order to give their children the education they knew they deserved.

I actually listened to the audiobook of Children of the Dust Bowl, so I was not able to get the full effect of the book’s images; however, Fred Sullivan’s reading of the book truly brought it to life. The descriptions in the book were vivid: “Frequently the wind blew more than 50 miles an hour, carrying away the top soil and leaving only hard red clay, which made farming impossible. In the flat lands of the panhandle, people could see dust storms coming from 20 to 30 miles away. The winds made the sky boil red, blood red…” Even without photos or maps, I found the author’s style of writing to be captivating. I thoroughly enjoyed reading (listening to) Children of the Dust Bowl. ( )
  TBurley | Mar 30, 2016 |
Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp tells the story of the residents of the panhandle in Oklahoma and their trip to California in search of a better life. The first half of the book describes what life was like and the events that led up to the formation of the Weedpatch Camp and School. The second half of the book covers how the camp started and how the Weedpatch School came to be.
The residents of the Oklahoma panhandle were known as Okies and endured many tragic events to their livelihood as farmers including the depression, draught, and dust storms. The dust storms diminished any chance of their farms producing crops and their ability to survive. This was enough to make the Okies look for work in California. The Okie families traveled the long distance along Route 66 hoping to find better situations and work for their families. Families sold their belongings or piled everything they could fit into and on top of jalopies to make the trip to California. The journey was rough and tested the Okie families, but when they arrived in California they were surprised to find out that not only was there no work to be found, they were treated as outcasts by the locals. The Okie families were poor and only wanted to provide a stable life for themselves but the Californians tried to run them out of town and did nothing to help them, even though they were homeless and hungry. The Okies endured so much but had come so far that they did what they could to survive. They squatted in communities known as Okievilles, had next to nothing to eat, and lived in filthy conditions. This is a true testament to their will and perseverance to find a better life. In 1936, the Farm Security Administration started to build 12 camps in San Joaquin Valley in order to provide the Okies with shelter and better living conditions. One of the camps was called the Weedpatch Camp. This was the point at which things started to turn around for the families, but the Californians still treated the Okies badly and despised them being in their town.
A man named Leo Hart started visiting the children of Weedpatch Camp and in 1939 ran for superintendent of education of Kern County. Mr. Hart helped the Okie children in numerous ways including acquiring clothing and shoes for them and attempting to place them in schools on the outside of town hoping that they would be accepted. In 1940 Mr. Hart came up with a brilliant idea to start a school just for the Okie children. This school became known as the Weedpatch School and taught the children things such as farming, plumbing, electrical, masonry, and academics. Mr. Hart was able to get the school off the ground from donations of anything and everything and the children built the school with their bare hands. Finally, the Okies had something to be proud of.
As much as this story is about the events that led up to the Weedpatch Camp and School it is also about the grit and community of the Okie families. They were faced with so many adversities but still kept going and trying and took care of one another. They may have been poor but they were rich in community.
This book was easy to read and gave great descriptions of what life was like for an Okie. The book offers black and white photographs from the time that give the reader a better understanding of the struggles and experiences of the families. This an event in U.S. history that I had not known about but now I am very interested to find out more. I feel the author told the Okie’s story thoroughly and that young readers could learn a great deal from this text. ( )
  jgum | Mar 30, 2016 |
The book “Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School of Weedpatch Camp” by Jerry Stanley is a story of how migrants from the Panhandle in America endured the loss of farms, livestock, and family members due to Dust Storms in the 1930s. These people are known as Okies and they travel from The Panhandle area to California in search of a better life. The dangerous trip is made through Route 66 where the Okies are faced with loss of gas for vehicles and minimal food supply. When the Okies finally arrived to California instead of being met with jobs and opportunities they are faced with horrible living conditions, no educational opportunities, and most unfortunately no employment. However, due to the hard work of Superintendent Hart in 1940, Weedpatch School opens for Okie children which affords them more learning opportunities that any other school in the state. The students were not merely learning the basics of the educational system at the time but life skills. Weedpatch School educated the whole child. This book is an inspiration for what schools should be. The students were learning practical skills that could be utilized their whole lives. It make an educator reevaluate the educational system and question if Hart knew that educating the whole child was the core of education in 1940 how has education lost this foundation over the years?
The book is an easy read with very short chapters. The photographs are in black and white but they are authentic pictures of the school and the lives of the Okies during this time. The section that serves as a bibliography describes books and interviews but this section would have been more effective if it was formatted in a traditional work cited format. The way it is formatted makes it difficult to locate a source for further reading. Overall it was a captivating read. The photos help to hook the reader. Also the photos matched well with each section of the text. There are maps that help with giving the reader as sense of where the Okies traveled from. There are pictures of the Okies that help the reader visualize what they looked like. The photos are one of the reasons this book was a good read. It allows the reader to have a mind movie running while the eyes are reading. ( )
  slockett2008 | Mar 30, 2016 |
Jerry Stanley's story of the lives and hardships of children who migrated to California with their families during the Dust Bowl is deeply meaningful and surprisingly emotional. His book has a wide variety of source that weave a rich description and are surprisingly detailed. One of the more enjoyable moments while reading the book comes from reading the captions under the pictures. As the story develops, the captions of pictures become more detailed and accessible because they contain the children whose stories are being told.

I would use this book in a unit about agriculture or on weather patterns. I think it would be useful to demonstrate the long term affects of droughts and other weather patterns on human behavior. Science classes could research the agricultural practices and weather patterns that combined to cause the 1930's Dust Bowl. ( )
  mwestholz | Mar 30, 2016 |
Children of the Dust Bowl The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp was Jerry Stanley's first book and I hope he never stops writing. The struggle and then endurance that the families that made their way from the dust bowl down the "mother road" to Californ-I-A was impressive. These poor Okie families went through so much that no one would blame them for just giving up. But they didn't. They didn't give up when they were faced with the Great Depression or a drought. They didn’t give up when they faced the long, hard journey from the dust bowl to California over 1,000 miles away through desert and up mountains. They didn’t give up when they arrived in California to find that there were not enough jobs to go around. They didn’t give up when they were basically forced to live in cramped migrant camps surviving on not much more than beans. They also did not give up when they faced ridicule from the locals in town and in the schools. The Okies caught a huge break when Leo Hart came into their lives (or some may argue that they came into his life). Mr. Hart quickly became my favorite person that we have read about so far this semester. He had such a big heart (no pun intended) for the children of the Weedpatch Camp. Hart was smart enough to talk the president of the Vineland school board into “removing” the Okie children from the public schools. He was also resourceful enough to get most of the material to build the school donated.
I also appreciated the fact that the curriculum of the school was so practical. The students were learning what other students may learn and more. While they built the school they were learning plumbing, electrical wiring, masonry and carpentry. They would also learn about aircraft mechanics and how to make face cream in the chemistry lab. This is the type of curriculum I wish we could cover in public schools today. Of course, this was before the days of standardized testing dominating the field of education.
The photographs that were used were priceless in my opinion. They seemed to take me to the places in the pictures. I felt so sad when I observed the faces of the people trying to get to California or living in the migrant camps. That sadness turned to joy when I viewed the pictures of the children of Weedpatch Camp working together to build the school. You can see the whole attitude of the book change at Chapter 6 when Mr. Hart orchestrated the financing for the property and the building of the school.
Like many enduring stories, the beginning was not pretty. This book is a great example of the so called “American Dream.” If you work hard and do not give up (and you get a little help from your friends) you should find success in life.
I would definitely share this book with my high school environmental science students. We just finished a unit of biomes and the students would be able to recognize some of the reasons behind the dust bowl both human and natural. ( )
  jpetit1 | Mar 30, 2016 |
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:31 -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.

(summary from another edition)

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