Years of Dust: The Story of the Dust Bowl

 Marrin, Albert. Years of Dust: The Story of the Dust Bowl. 2009. 128pp. Lexile 1040.

Pair this fine volume with the novels, The Grapes of Wrath or Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust.  It has all the features of excellent historical nonfiction: strong, readable narrative; great historic photographs, reproduced well; maps and charts; interesting sidebars; and rich extras such as a timeline, glossary, bibliography plus suggested reading for teens, and index.  Marrin takes a broad approach, explaining the ecology of the Great Plains, how the Indians used the land, and the effect of settlers and farming.  He weaves in quotes from those who lived through the Dust Bowl, including young people.  After discussing how the federal government approached the problem, Marrin finishes up by considering similar current and future problems. 

Reading Std #4: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including technical, connotative, and figurative meanings; analyze role of specific word choices.  Have students consider the “Words to Know” section in terms of the different strands of the book including historical, ecological, agricultural, social, and political. Have them choose one of those strands and find vocabulary that relates to it.  For example, the glossary defines “mortgage” but other financial terms, such as “foreclosure” and “default” are also discussed in the text but don't appear in the glossary.