Born and Bred in the Great Depression, by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root
published in 2011 by Schwartz & Wade Books
East Texas, 1930s. A little boy grows up amidst a large family in a tiny house, beds cram full of kids, kerosene lanterns aglow, privy out back.
That little boy is author Jonah Winter’s father, and this poetic book tells the story of his childhood during the Great Depression.
Grandfather Winter was a steady soul who relentlessly looked for jobs in lumberyards and railways in order to feed his family. Granny was just as resolute, harvesting food from her garden, milking the cow, scrubbing clothes for ten on her washboard, with grace left over to dole out fried chicken to hoboes who’d drifted far from home.
Despite the hard, lean years, this childhood held good memories — trips to the icehouse in the Model T, a game of chess, the sound of father strumming the banjo, the sight of him faithfully reading in the quiet evenings.
Winter’s family stories leave him with a sense of “a whole country of people tough as Grandpa and Granny Winter, not giving up” and a picture of his father, content with simple things.
I love this story, partly because it echoes my own parents’ experiences in the Depression — stalwart families who sacrificed for one another and were genuinely happy in spite of scarcity. It’s written in free verse, richly detailed, accessible to children as young as 5, and an especially appropriate story for Thanksgiving season, I think.
Soft, appealing watercolors in denim blues and weathered-wood browns depict a loving family, the wide horizons of Texas, and a spare household. Somehow I have missed Root’s work before this but I am on a mission now to track down her other illustration work! End pages filled with old Winter-family photos are the cherry on top.