Three motherless siblings seek “someplace to call home” in Depression-era Kansas.
Someplace to Call Home by Sandra Dallas. Sleeping Bear Press, 2019, 222 pages
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12
Recommended for: ages 10-14
When disaster strikes their Oklahoma homestead, in the form of dust followed by death, the Turner children take to the road, like to many other Depression-era families. With the loss of their mom and one sister and the desertion of their father, Tom is the head of the family at 16 and Hallie, only 12, is the one that holds them together. Their little brother Benny is “different,” though generally happy and good-natured. But even Benny can’t keep their spirits up when their old Model T breaks down in the middle of Kansas. With only four dollars to their name, the kids have no choice but to hunker down and try to earn enough to nurse the Model T back to health–just enough to limp on down the road. Their fortunes start looking up when they meet the Carlsons, an older couple with a little girl who, like Benny, has Down Syndrome (though they didn’t have a name for it then). Tom finds work and Hallie begins to make a home, but it soon appears that someone doesn’t want them there.
Young readers who receive a $20 allowance every week will find it eye-opening to return to a time when a quarter was wealth and dresses were made from four sacks. The traditional values held true: this fictional story holds echoes of Ralph Moody’s real-life recollections in Little Britches. Though not action-packed, there’s enough small-town drama and telling detail to hold a reader’s interest. The story is told mostly from Hallie’s point of view but gains its greatest emotional heft from Tom, who bears the burden of his father’s weakness. Turns out, he’s the better man, and the Turners’ story is a sturdy, solid read of an earlier time.
- The family does not attend church and Tom seems to have a grudge against church-going—or possibly against God. But the pastor is a sympathetic character.
Overall Rating: 4 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 4.25
- Artistic/literary value: 3.75
Also at Redeemed Reader: High school students will be fascinated by the graphic-novel version of The Forgotten Man, an alternative view of The Depression. Don Brown’s The Great American Dust Bowl, another graphic-novel treatment shows the disaster that overtook midwestern farmers like the Turners. And see our review of another novel from the time period, based on a true story: Sweet Home Alaska.
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