The Great American Dust Bowl
This is the second title I have read for the 2015-2016 Texas Bluebonnet Award nominees. Continuing down the list in alphabetically order, this is the next title. I was actually pleased to have a nonfiction title (and more of a picture book) after reading a full chapter book. It also gave me a better idea about the diversity of titles that are included each year on the nomination list.
Summary: The biggest storm of the Dust Bowl happened on April 14, 1935. But, as Brown points out, the events that led to the Dust Bowl started far earlier. The text, reading in an almost graphic novel format, presents a summary of the events leading up the Dust Bowl, from the shifting of the earth’s plates, through World War I, and on into the series of droughts and dusters that shaped the Dust Bowl.
What I Liked: As a nonfiction title, this book obviously presented a lot of facts. I liked that the author presented the facts as simply as possible, but also in ways that are understandable to the reader. For example, Brown describes the duster of May 1934 as filled with enough dust to fill 1500 modern supertankers. Not only does the reader suddenly understand the vast amount of dust described, the simple visuals accompanying the text reinforce the points. Overall, the book presents much factual information in a concise, understandable format. Further, Brown hooks the reader from the very first sentence of the book. The word choice immediately intrigues the reader and encourages you to read further.
What I Didn’t Like: Overall, I enjoyed the book. However, I felt that the illustrations could have done more to support the text, at least as it relates to the families depicted. On their own, the illustrations do a wonderful job of depicting the terror and hardship of the dust storms. However, since the author chose to use a graphic format with the characters periodically adding their own thoughts to the narration, I would have liked to see perhaps a bit more character development throughout the story. For instance, having the same family describe the impact of the Dust Bowl on their farm to allow the reader to form a stronger connection. Overall, though, the way the author presents information does not detract from the text or the overall goal of the book, and the comments that are provided are beneficial for providing more personal context to the historical events described.
Overall Feeling: I enjoyed reading this book. As a nonfiction title, it presents a lot of information without being overwhelming, and yet there is no doubt as to the historical accuracy and the amount of research that the author put into the work. I think this book provides a great factual overview to the topic, and includes a surprising amount of information for its relatively short format. I would recommend it not only as an interesting read, but also as a very useful resource in understanding this period in American history.