Shadow of the Pines
In The Shadow of the Pines is a true story from the Great Depression. A sharecropping family in Texas struggles with poverty, illness, death, and land disputes.
The Great Depression
A Mother's Plea             A Son's Promise
Era: Great Depression
Location: East Texas
The summary is from the back cover
Nine year old Alfred and his family live as sharecroppers in the pine woods of East Texas. Plagued by poverty and hunger, the family also faced illness and land disputes.
Should the children work to help buy food for one more day as their father insits? Or should they go to school as their mother wants in order to gain a better future?
As circumstances continue to get worse, the family is evicted and moves to a tent in the woods. There an unexpected change awaits them.
The book has a number of important literary themes
Importance of family
Siblings working together
Value of education
Cycle of life and death
His mother's dying wish was for her children to stay together and go to school. But how can Alfred keep his promise when his father requires him to work?
Does it count if Alfred studies late at night? Will that help anything?
In the day by day struggle, the older kids take care of the younger children, and the younger children help their older siblings.
Even as young adults they continue to look out for each other. Maybe even yet their mother's hopes will come true.
History is woven into the fabric of the story
Modern readers can grasp the hardships of families during the Great Depression. This tells the specific story of one sharecropping family, but it reflects the hardships of millions of Americans. The struggle of that generation is portrayed as children toil in the fields without the basic necessities and their parents face difficult decisions.
Their grandfather is the story teller who shares how their great-great grandparents settled in Texas and lived through Texas history.
Major historical events include the Zavala Colony, the Alamo, Independent Republic of Texas, and the Civil War.
The settlers and farmers of East Texas had their own regional history that differs from common stereo-types of Texas ranches in other areas of the state. Some of the regional aspects include:
- The Piney Woods of East Texas
- History of White and Yellow Pines
- Open range
- Local cattle drives of 1930's
- Sugar cane harvest
- Watkins Peddler Cart
World War II and the Berlin Airlift
The prologue and epilogue are set in the context of the end of World War II and the Berlin Airlift.
The story of his childhood is recounted by Alfred more than a decade later as he is serving as an airman in the Berlin Airlift. Previously, he had been a soldier in World War II.
The context of those world events are used to contrast the events of his own childhood. He remembers feelings of hunger and the pain of his own mother's death as he participates in the Berlin Airlift. He contrasts the battle stories his grandfather told him with modern realities.
Bobbitt Cemetery - State Historical Site
The founding and history of the Bobbitt Cemetery is described. This is one of the few remaining sites of early white settlers in Texas.
In the first chapter their grandfather describes how the family cemetery started. The burial of their mother takes place in the cemetery as the children watch helplessly. As an adult, Alfred returns to visit the graves of his mother and grandfather and recount the promise he made.
Buy In the Shadow of the Pines
Children's Literature - Grade 4 through 8
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