cover image Children of the Great Depression

Children of the Great Depression

Russell Freedman, . . Clarion, $20 (118pp) ISBN 978-0-618-44630-8

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.)