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The Great Depression in Fiction and Nonfiction: December 2015 Intermediate 3-5

November 15th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2015-2016 | December

what the moon saidWhat the Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren. Penguin Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readersGroup, 2014.

After Esther’s father loses his job in Chicago during the Depression, the family manages to buy a small farm in Wisconsin. Her immigrant parents include her warm German father and her more emotionally distant, Russian-born mother. In fact, Esther’s mother is so distant that Esther sometimes wonders if her mother loves her, especially because she seems much more affectionate with Esther’s siblings. As the family adjusts to rural life, Esther makes a good friend in Bethany, and loves her new teacher at the small school. But superstitious Ma soon forbids Esther from spending time with Bethany because of her new friend’s mole, which Esther’s mother believes is a devil’s mark. Soon Esther can’t help but blame a lot of the family hardship on her mother, especially as the Depression continues to bear down and makes their future on the farm she’s come to love uncertain. There’s an old-fashioned sensibility to this story that goes beyond its setting and time period. The storytelling itself, with several dramatic plot elements leading to revelations, has the feel of a piece from an earlier time. But if there is a sense of predictability, it comes with comfort and great satisfaction, even as Esther’s story ends happily but not in the prefect way she might have wished.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Before reading: Do you have any superstitions?
  2. What is Esther’s life like on the farm? How is it different from her siblings?
  3. How does Ma’s background affect Esther?
  4. How is Esther different in the beginning of the story from the end of the story? How is Ma different?

The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown. Houghton Mifflin,great american dust bowl 2013.

“It fell across our city like a curtain of black rolled down. We thought it was our … doom.” Don Brown’s informative and affecting graphic novel look at the Dust Bowl examines its causes and effects from the perspective of both science and social history. He covers the geologic history of the Plains, and the changing ways people and animals used the land. When the grasslands were stripped to plant crops to meet the European food shortage during World War I, farmers were living high. Then prices fell, the Great Depression struck, and a drought hit. The stage was set for ecological and human disaster. Brown’s writing is straightforward and spare, at times poetic as he takes readers through the years of the Dust Bowl, sharing dramatic and painful experiences of people who lived during the devastating time. His poignant illustrations are heavily shaded in dusty tones of brown and yellow. Readers can see and feel the heat of the sun and the thickness of the dust, as well as the weight of worry, fear, and despair in the bodies and faces of people and animals alike. A final page spread discusses droughts that have taken place in the Plains since the 1930s (most recently in 2012), and offer a selected bibliography and source notes for quoted material. (MS) ©2013 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What do you think the author wanted you to know about the dust bowl? What are some of the things he included in the text and the images to tell you that?
  2. How did the illustrations help tell the story?
  3. How does the graphic novel format differ from other informational text formats? What are the benefits of the graphic novel format in relaying information?

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