Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Great American Dust Bowl
Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust brought the despair of the Dust Bowl to me through the eyes of 14-year-old Billie Jo. Grains of dust blew into every aspect of life! In Don Brown's latest graphic novel, The Great American Dust Bowl, that same despair is echoed in the text and artwork, accompanied by speech bubbles that convey the actual words of folks who lived through the time period. He provides background information about how the plain bordering the Rocky Mountains was formed and describes how so many pioneers came to live there. Eventually, the plain dried up to "dry, pulverized earth." His descriptions of the conditions are gripping, like this about a dust storm in 1932:
"In January 1932, wind blew dirt ten thousand feet into the air, nearly twenty times higher than the Washington Monument. The sky turned brownish gray, sixty-mile-per-hour, dirt-filled winds lashed Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. People called it "awe-inspiring." - p. 21
The variation of panel size, the color palette, the arrangement of text on the pages, and the inclusion of incredible details (like how desperate people believed dead snakes hanging from fence posts would bring rain) make this such a successful book. Despite the grim topic, it is sure to hold readers' interest.