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Thursday, July 28, 2011

No Promises in the Wind by Irene Hunt



Reviewed by a history teacher seeking reading material for his classes

I picked up No Promises in the Wind without much in the way of expectations since I am not that big of fan of Irene Hunt's most famous novel for the younger set, Across Five Aprils.

However, I am pleased to say that this is a much better book. No Promises In The Wind is about two brothers who leave home during the Great Depression simply because there is not enough money at home to buy enough food to feed everyone. They head off from Chicago with no plan except to try to survive as best as they can.

A soup line during the Great Depression
As a teacher, what I like best about this book is its portrayal of the complete and utter economic collapse that the Great Depression entailed. Most students have no conception as to the breadth and depth of the Great Depression. By looking at this small family, readers gain an inkling as to what went on. Modern readers might question why this family didn't apply for welfare or food stamps, so it could lead to a great discussion about the beginnings of such programs. The book addresses, in passing, the inability of private charities to keep up with the massive need.

When I asked my grandmother about the Depression, her experience as a young woman in the country mirrored what these boys do in this book. My grandmother spoke about young and old men alike coming up to their house and begging for food. Usually, they offered to do a bit of yard work in exchange for the food and the promise to keep moving on. This book echoed that experience wonderfully.

No Promises In The Wind would make a great introduction to the Great Depression as a topic in class. While, in the end, it is not nearly as powerful as more famous books, such as The Grapes of Wrath, it is much more accessible to young people and thus more useful.

Since the book ends just a few weeks after FDR takes office, follow up topics would naturally include the WPA and the CCC as well as Roosevelt's calculated strategies to appear as though he had things in hand in order to provide a bit of hope.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: No Promises in the Wind.

Reviewed on August 2, 2006.

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