Skip to main content

The Great American Dust Bowl

Review

The Great American Dust Bowl

On April 14, 1935, temperatures dropped 50 degrees and 65-miles-an-hour winds lifted arid and barren soil from Wyoming and the Dakotas, and then continued its destructive southern course to displace tons of dirt throughout much of the American Plains. Better known as Black Sunday, this storm has been earmarked as the worst of the Dirty Thirties, a decade of dust storms in the 1930s. During this time period, there were almost 200 dust storms that plagued this region. The main concentration of these storms settled in a rough circle of land, known as the Dust Bowl, which consisted of sections of New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. However out of all these storms, none had produced such vast physical and environmental damage like Black Sunday, and it took this storm to send a wake up call to the U.S. government.

"Don Brown’s stimulating storytelling coupled with his imaginative graphic art has produced a riveting narrative that succinctly describes this 10 year period dubbed THE GREAT AMERICAN DUST BOWL, the worst environmental catastrophe the country has ever seen."

To understand how and why these dust storms evolved, Brown takes readers back millions of years from the geological developments of the Rocky Mountain range and the American Plains and what the land was like when Native Americans freely roamed the continent, to Brown’s uncomplicated explanation of the adverse effects U.S. history had on the growth and progress of agriculture. By the time drought inundated the American Plains in 1931, particularly the Dust Bowl region, Brown aptly states that, “the drought tortured the land, evaporating the moisture in the soil…when the wind blew, dust storms followed.” These dust storms led to harsh temperatures and the encroachment of bugs and jackrabbits.

On May 9, 1934, winds whipped up again, and this time from Montana and the Dakotas, taking with it 350 million tons of dirt, which created gritty clouds that reached 15,000 feet. They carried and deposited their load into Chicago, Illinois; Atlanta, New Jersey; Boston, Massachusetts; and Washington, D.C. Almost a year later, Black Sunday hit. The death toll and environmental damaged reached its peak. Finally, after four years worth of dust storms that ravaged the land and left survivors sick and destitute, the U.S. government stepped in by instituting programs to plant trees (to act as windbreakers against future storms) and to teach growers how to care for the soil.

Don Brown’s stimulating storytelling coupled with his imaginative graphic art has produced a riveting narrative that succinctly describes this 10 year period dubbed THE GREAT AMERICAN DUST BOWL, the worst environmental catastrophe the country has ever seen. Kudos must go to this award-winning author and illustrator for candidly explaining to our youth about a horrific event in our country’s history --- an event that, I believe, could have largely been avoided.

Reviewed by Anita Lock on October 15, 2013

The Great American Dust Bowl
by Don Brown