Crash: The Great Depression and the Fall and Rise of America

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
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Compelling history brings the Great Depression to life.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

For students who have already studied the Depression, Crash details events and people from the 1930s that may not have been covered in class: The Scottsboro Boys, nine African American teens whose convictions on charges of raping two white women led to landmark decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court; Ida Mae Fuller, the first person to receive a Social Security check; how John Steinbeck's reporting on a migrant camp inspired him to write The Grapes of Wrath; and that hoboes weren't only men riding freight trains from town to town but thousands and thousands of children as well.

Positive Messages

In the darkest of times, the human spirit can still hope.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was his eyes and ears as she traveled the country reporting on the people she'd met, places she'd been; Frances Perkins, America's first female cabinet secretary who crafted what would become Social Security; and Walter White, who helped lead the civil rights struggles of the 1930s. Also the auto workers, coal miners, and textile workers who fought for and won better working conditions; the millions of women who went to work building bombers and battleships; and the families who risked everything to find a better life for themselves.


African Americans are lynched and have their homes and businesses burned. A "Bonus Army" of military veterans comes to Washington, D.C., to demand payment of war bonuses and is met by the Army's tanks, tear gas, and bullets. Union workers on strike are confronted by National Guard troops. Reference to the rape trials of the Scottsboro Boys and their aftermath.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Marc Favreau's Crash: The Great Depression and the Fall and Rise of America chronicles the nation's fall into economic depression following the stock market crash in 1929 through the dark days of the 1930s and finally to America's entry into World War II and the economy's recovery. Filled with photographs and compelling firsthand accounts, Crash is certain to bring this era alive for even the most reluctant history student.

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What's the story?

CRASH tackles a big subject, and the author has wisely chosen to break it into four sections. "Fall" details the stock market crash, the country's 25 percent unemployment rate, breadlines, soup kitchens, homeless families, and "the unluckiest president," Herbert Hoover. "Rise" profiles the lives of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, his election as president, and the creation of the New Deal and Social Security. The "Setback" section covers the Dust Bowl, which made migrants of some 300,000 people, and America's "blind spot" when it came to the rights of African Americans and migrants, and the rise of anti-Semitism. The final section, "Victory," shows how America's entry in World War II put the country back to work.

Is it any good?

Dozens of archival photographs, haunting first-person accounts, letters, and even song lyrics help readers put a human face on the events of the Great Depression in this compelling history. Rather than focusing on facts and dates, Crash offers readers a real understanding of what it must have been like for families to live through some of the darkest days in American history. For anyone who wants to dig deeper, there are source notes, a bibliography (which concentrates on adult titles), and selected primary sources that include online media exhibits, visual and audio sources, and links to printed interviews and oral histories. This a great book for students who are convinced that history can never be anything but dull and lifeless. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the families in Crash coped after parents lost their jobs and often the family home. How would you feel if you had to take only what your family could fit into a car and head off to another city or state where you hoped to find a better life?

  • Crash is filled with powerful photographs of people whose lives were affected by the Great Depression. Is there one photo that really made this period in history come alive for you?

  • Do you think the government did enough to help people who had lost their jobs and homes? Is there anything else you would have done ... or not done?

Book details

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For kids who love history

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