A speck of dust is a tiny thing. In fact, five of them could fit into the period at the end of this sentence.
On a clear, warm Sunday, April 14, 1935, a wild wind whipped up millions upon millions of these specks of dust to form a duster—a savage storm—on America's high southern plains.
The sky turned black, sand-filled winds scoured the paint off houses and cars, trains derailed, and electricity coursed through the air. Sand and dirt fell like snow—people got lost in the gloom and suffocated . . . and that was just the beginning.
Don Brown brings the Dirty Thirties to life with kinetic, highly saturated, and lively artwork in this graphic novel of one of America's most catastrophic natural events: the Dust Bowl.
The tale of the decade-long drought that laid waste to American plains and ruined the lives of countless farmers is a somber read, but Brown (America Is Under Attack) devotes himself to telling it well, enhancing his expertly paced panels with graphs, text boxes, cutaway views, and extensive quotations from those who endured and survived. He explains how ranchers failed on the plains ("Cattle lacked the sturdiness of bison, and the summer heat and winter blizzards wiped them out"), and how the farmers who replaced them were bamboozled into thinking they could do better on the same ungiving land. WWI inflated wheat prices, the end of the war sent them crashing, and then the drought hit. Brown resists overstatement; a lone farmer's puzzled look up at the sky is more poignant than any frown. Only the physical descriptions of dust storms pall as later passages revisit details covered earlier. In the end, Brown ties the story of that catastrophe to the one that faces the country now: "In 2011, scorching heat came back and the rain disappeared." Readers won't miss the point. Ages 12 up.