The Dust Bowl
is a sensitive story of three generations of a prairie farming family and their courageous struggle to survive a drought that echoes the devastating "Big Dry" a half-century earlier in the 1930s. Karen Reczuch's illustrations are subtle yet emotionally potent vignettes of the connections between three surviving male family members during the current crisis threatening the farm. Matthew is a young boy concerned about his father's furrowed brow and frustrated tone. Grampa is calm and full of hope that whatever comes to test their spirit-drought, grasshoppers, crop failure, famine, bank foreclosure, or the temptation to seek an easier life on the lusher west coast-nothing would make them lose the farm if they just don't give up hope.
As the old clichés have said, in every cloud there is a silver lining and into everyone's life a little rain must fall, or not fall as the case may be. If hope is the key to surviving the challenges of life as this book implies, we really don't need to know much else. But the book brings a few questions to mind which it refrains from answering. Why are the mother and grandmother dead despite all their hope and love of the land? What really causes the big droughts and other pestilences upon the land? Isn't there anything we can do to stop them? Doesn't David Booth think that young readers will want answers to these questions that are begged by this sentimental tale of farm men bound for glory? Lovely pictures and skilful writing offer young readers a rare look at the spirit of those who work the land, but what is the real message about the people who didn't survive, and bit the dust? l
Bart Snow is an artist and teacher in Toronto.