The Great American Dust Bowl

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Great American Dust Bowl Book Poster Image
Evocative illustrated nonfiction, great for history buffs.

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

Educational Value

The Great American Dust Bowl expertly evokes the hardships endured by the inhabitants of the Plains states during the Great Depression. It explains the scientific principles behind the ecological disaster and illustrates how the entire United States was affected by it for many decades.

Positive Messages

The Great American Dust Bowl emphasizes that the Dust Bowl was created partially through the carelessness and greed of white settlers in North America. It warns that climate change is still underway, and that humankind must be careful not replicate the kinds of conditions that precipitated the Dust Bowl.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Great American Dust Bowl does not have any particular protagonist, but it dramatizes the fortitude and bravery of the men, women, and children who endured life in the Dust Bowl. They struggled to survive in the midst of drought, dust storms, and plagues of grasshoppers and spiders, and much more.


Dust storms were not only destructive to property, but they could be deadly to the unwary. The Great American Dust Bowl mentions, but does not illustrate, a few instances that proved fatal to adults and children.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Great American Dust Bowl presents a simplified yet evocative history of one of the United States' most dire ecological disasters in graphic novel style. Through well-researched vignettes, author-illustrator Don Brown captures the hardships of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl and the resilience of those who endured them. 

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What's the story?

THE GREAT AMERICAN DUST BOWL opens on April 14, 1935, the day a huge, savage dust storm swept through America's high southern plains, derailing trains, suffocating animals, and scouring the paint from houses. The narrative then flashes back in time to explain the geological, economic and environmental factors that led to the drought. It charts the struggles of the millions of Americans who were affected by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.

Is it any good?

The Great American Dust Bowl simplifies the story of one of the United States' biggest ecological disasters, without robbing it of its historical and continuing significance. Author-illustrator Don Brown clearly presents the geological, meteorological, and ecological factors behind the drought and Dust Bowl.

The illustrations contain a touch of whimsy that prevents the material from becoming too depressing. The book is a quick, enjoyable chronicle of a disastrous era in American history.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about ecological disasters. Could something like the Dust Bowl happen today?

  • How has farming in the United States changed since the days of the Dust Bowl? Are there instances in which modern farming causes situations unhealthy to the general public? 

  • Do you think that human activity has a direct link to climate change?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history

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