Depression Era Stories

Families struggled, farms failed, businesses collapsed, while children dreamed of a brighter future. This list of classic depression era stories for children captures the effort to survive and the indomitable human spirit.


In the Shadow of the Pines

By Karen Newell

True Story
Children in a sharecropping family in Texas are torn between working to get food for one more day or attending school for a better future. Illness, family feuds and a land dispute hang over their horizon.

Out of the Dust

By Karen Hesse

Historical Fiction
1934 - 1935
Written as a series of diary entries, Out of the Dust tells the story of a family in Oklahoma which encounters personal tragedy as well as the Dust Bowl.

Lassie Come Home

By Eric Knight

When his father loses his job, Joe's treasured collie is sold. This is the story of the dog's journey back to the owner he loves. It also tells the story of how the Depression affected the family relationships of Lassie's owner.

Roll of Thundre, Hear My Cry

By Mildred Taylor

Published 1976 - Historical Fiction
It is 1933 and Cassie Logan's family live in rural Mississippi. They are one of the few black families who own land, but trouble is brewing over it. Even with Mama working and Papa having to leave home to work on the railroad they may not be able to keep their home. Cassie and her brothers face danger as they learn how racism affects their family. Other stories about the Logan family have also been written by the author.

Blue Willow

By Doris Gates

Janey's family lost their farm in the Dust Bowl and now move place to place as migrant workers. The blue willow plate of her mother's is the only object left of their former life and Janey's most treasured possession. Now when all hope is lost, the plate may help them - but the cost is high.

Bud, Not Buddy

By Christopher Paul Curtis

A ten year old orphan, Bud, escapes from his foster home with his few treasures in a beat up suitcase. Remembering his loving mother who died four years earlier, he decides he will find the man he believes to be his father. Instead, he finds himself with a jazz band and a grouchy old musician who denies he could be his father. The truth surprises them all.

Children of the Dust Bowl

By Jerry Stanley

A true story about the plight of the "Okies" - the destitute farmers who left Oklahoma after the dust bowl to search for a better life in California. The first part of this book documents the hard times, poverty, and rejection they encountered in California. The second half of the book shows how one man led a team of teachers to successfully change the fate of the Okies when helped them start the school at Weedpatch Camp. More of a documentary than an entertaining story, this book portrays the life of the Okies and their school in photographs and descriptions.

A Year Down Yonder

By Richard Peck

2001 Newbery Winner
1937, It's 1937 and the Depression has given way to a major recession. Mary Alice's parents are out of work so she needs to go stay with her grandmother down South. But what a grandmother! It's hard enough leaving her family in Chicago to go to a small rural town where everyone is suffering from hard times. But to have a gun-toting, Grandma everyone is afraid of! Changes are ahead for both Mary Alice and Grandma. Enjoyable book for 5th - 8th graders with both serious and humorous scenes.

Shiloh Autumn

By Bodie & Brock Thoene

Historical Fiction - Based on a true story
Not written for children, this is a story that would be enjoyed by teens and young adults. A farming community watches as all their hopes dry up, and one by one they are forced to sell. Will faith and courage triumph, or will greed and betrayal destroy all hope? Based on real incidents in their family, this is a newer book written by a family that specializes in historical fiction.


Is there a classic literature book for kids on the Great Depression you would like to recommend?

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