Children of the Dust Bowl
Stanley, Jerry. 1992. Children
of the Dust Bowl: the true story of the school at Weedpatch Camp.
New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN: 0517587815.
Although most people have learned about the Dust Bowl by reading The Grapes of Wrath, Stanley
takes it a step farther by focusing on the children of the Dust
Bowl. The book starts by explaining the causes of the Dust Bowl
and follows the Okies on their Westward trek. Although the
children are not wanted in the public schools by native Californians,
they eventually become the envy of the town when they build a
remarkable school for themselves with their own hands.
This is truly the story of the triumph of the human spirit, and Stanley
is able to tell it on many levels. His research into the facts
and figures of the effects of the migration on California allows
readers a broad view of the topic. "Epidemics of disease in the
Okievilles caused the health and sanitation budget for Kern County to
double between 1935 and 1940. During the same period,
overcrowding in the school caused Kern County's education bill to
increase by 214 percent, while property taxes rose 50 percent."
(p.34) After giving readers a look at the figures, Stanley
narrows his focus and personalizes his subject through stories from the
actual residents of Weedpatch Camp and the administrators of the
school. Not only are readers told the story of school
superintendent Leo Hart, but they are able to read his own words
through interviews conducted by the author. "I could never
understand why these kids should be treated differently. I could
never understand why they shouldn't be given the same opportunity as
others. Someone had to do something for them because no one cared
about them." (p.44) Author Jerry Stanley's thorough research for
this book is evidenced through sections at the end of the text entitled
Bibliographic Notes and Picture
Credits and Acknowledgements.
An index is also included.
As the author's words voice the story of the school at Weedpatch Camp,
well chosen pictures bring the stories to life. Readers are able
to read about a student, teacher, or administrator and also see their
photograph. Pictures of people traveling across the United States
in ramshackle jalopies, signs telling them to go home, and the
construction of the school allow readers to take a tiny step into their