Born and Bred in the Great Depression by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root
Winter tells the story of his father’s childhood during the Great Depression in this historical picture book. Through the life of his father, he shows the poverty of the time. Grandpa Winter searched for work in the area, often unable to find any, which meant that there was no money to help support the family of 8 children. When he did find work, it was dirty and back-breaking labor. This is contrasted with the simple joys of childhood as Winter’s father spent time outside exploring the woods and walking the railroad tracks. The family grew most of their own food, eating lots of produce from the garden and canning excess to eat during leaner times. There was little ease in their lives, but what they could find they used. There was time as a family for music, chess and reading books. There was time to explore the natural world. This glimpse of history opens our eyes to the way we live today as well.
Winter’s words are compelling, inviting readers into the world of the Great Depression. He manages to tell the story of the poverty through a lens that children will be able to relate to. Focusing on the family life, including many people in each bed, there are definite contrasts with today’s economic problems. Winter does not romanticize the Great Depression, instead he brings it to life through the history of his own family. There is a lovely simplicity to the story that makes it all the more readable.
Root’s illustrations are done in pencil, ink and watercolor. They have a softness to them that evokes the past. The colors are subdued with the focus on telling the story through the images as well as the words. Root manages to show the Great Depression through images that are beautiful, quiet and rich.
This historical picture book celebrates strength of family and overcoming hardship. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade Books.