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Sick Soil: The Dust Bowl

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On April 14, 1935 in Boise City, Oklahoma, the sky turned black as a massive, swirling cloud of dust engulfed the city. “It got so dark that you couldn’t see your hand before your face,” remembered one farmer. Blinded drivers drove their cars off the side of the road. Terrified cows spun in circles. People covered their faces, gasping for breath. This was one of many dark days during the Dust Bowl. Sick Soil: The Dust Bowl traces the tragic story of the devastating dust storms that swept across the Midwest in the 1930s as a result of over-farming and drought. Fascinating photos of the actual events, maps, and fact boxes enrich the compelling text. The personal and heart-breaking story will grip and inspire young readers.

 
Interest Level Grade 2 - Grade 7
Reading Level Grade 3
BISACS JNF051160
Genre Nonfiction, Great for Hi-Lo Readers, Narrative Nonfiction
Copyright 2018
Publisher Bearport Publishing
Series Eco-Disasters
Language English
Number of Pages 32
ISBN 9781684022236, 9781684022779, 9781684023318
Title Format Reinforced book, Hosted eBook, Savings Bundle
Dewey 973.917
Dimensions 8 x 10
ATOS Reading Level 5.5
Guided Reading Level T
Lexile Reading Level 900
Author Kevin Blake
 

Jean Little Library Blog Review of Sick Soil: The Dust Bowl

This new series from Bearport offers a unique look at disasters throughout history by framing them in light of the ecological causes and effects. The series includes famous incidents like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and the Dust Bowl. It also includes more generic eco-disasters including incidents of high amounts of air pollution, climate change, and polluted water.

I was sent a copy of the title featuring the historical disaster of the Dust Bowl for review. The story begins with a dramatic recounting of the dust storms and what it was like to experience one. However, the main focus of this title is a little different than most historical disaster books. The geography of the great plains and the history of white settlement, emphasizing the planting of wheat, is covered in detail. A massive drought, combined with the economic turmoil of the Great Depression, started the disaster. This might have been mitigated by the natural protections of the plains; however, lacking the native grasses, the topsoil simply dried up and blew away. Millions of pounds of dust was blown off of the prairie, blackening the sky and coating cities as far away as New York. The human and economic cost of the disaster is shown in vintage photographs and quotes from people living in the Dust Bowl. Finally, in 1940, the combination of the economic impact of the New Deal and the return of the rain ended the drought and the black blizzards. However, the story doesn’t end there. Long-term changes in farming practices and from the migration of farmers to the cities changed history once again.

Back matter includes a discussion of measures taken to prevent similar catastrophes as well as a brief discussion of the possibility of similar or even worse events in the future due to climate change. A glossary, brief bibliography, and further reading is also included.

This is not a comprehensive history of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, or the environmental changes and farming choices that led to the ecological disaster. It’s an introduction meant to capture the interest of struggling readers and give them a basic overview of the topic as well as encourage students to complete further research on the many topics presented. As such, it’s an excellent resource.

Verdict: As I’m updating my resources on weather, history, and natural disasters, I think this is an excellent series that will see a lot of use both by individual students and in the classroom.

School Library Journal Review of Eco-Disasters

Gr 4-6–A dramatic introduction sets the scene of each event, followed by short chapters that describe it from start to finish or to its current status, with an emphasis on its immediate and continuing human costs. Each book clearly states who or what was responsible for the disaster, and discusses restitution or lack thereof to victims, as well as the ongoing or long-term detrimental effects. “Fixing the Future” sections detail continuing cleanup efforts or measures to prevent future calamities….VERDICT: This set will help readers understand the myriad large-scale ecological disasters that can happen and their lasting human and societal costs. A solid purchase.

Author/Illustrator biography
Correlations
Glossary of key words
Index
Online learning supplement
Sources for further research
Table of contents
Full-color illustrations, Full-color photographs, Historical photographs