Historical Fiction

MG Books Set During the Great Depression

After the roaring 20s came the economic slump of the 1930s. Millions of people could not make ends meet. Worsening the problem was the midwest drought that forced families to leave behind their homes and belongings in search of a better life. Other struggles during that time were the racial inequalities in the south and immigrant farmers in California. Brush up on your history with these excellent historical fiction novels.

Esperanza Rising by Pamela Munoz Ryan

Esperanza leads a privileged life in Mexico. When her father is murdered and her uncle takes over the estate, Esperanza and her mother flee to California to live on a work farm in a house fit for horses.

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (Verse)

Told from the perspective of a young girl who recounts the frequent struggles against the dust storms and the resulting crop failures that bring poverty to a land that is already in the midst of a Great Depression. Written in verse.

Goodbye, Mr. Spalding by Jennifer Robin Barr

Jimmie Frank and his best friend Lola live in the row houses across from Shibe Field, home of the Philadelphia A’s. During the Great Depression, the rooftops become an overnight success, offering low cost, unobstructed views of the ball field, until Mr. Shibe puts up a wall.

Lucky Strikes by Louis Bayard

Melia’s mom owns a gas station that’s barely making ends meet. When she dies, Melia and her siblings are determined to keep it running. She convinces a homeless man to pose as their father to keep their competitor from getting it and them going to foster homes. Grade 7 and up. 

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

The Great Depression is in full-swing and Mary Alice is sent to live with her grandmother while her parents get their financial situation in order. Her grandmother is known for two things, guns and baking, and she’s about to teach Mary Alice a thing or two about getting things done. 

Every Day After by Laura Golden

It’s 1931. Lizzie’s dad has lost his job and bailed on the family. Her mother is mentally unstable. While Lizzie contends with an obnoxious classmate, she gets a job, sells her grandmother’s necklace, takes on a boarder, and saves her home from foreclosure. 

Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Estby Dagg

During the Great Depression, FDR starts a program to settle Alaska. Terpsichore and her family arrive to a nonexistent town. They are like the homesteaders of the 1800s, starting from scratch. Terpsichore raises money to open a library and grows the largest pumpkin Alaskans have ever seen.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

Cassie Logan is having a hard time accepting that people are better or worse based on skin color. Her mom decides not to buy her groceries at the racist store in town and she is fired from her teaching job. Then her dad gets involved and it just keeps getting worse.

Stella By Starlight by Sharon Draper

During the Great Depression, Stella lives in the segregated south. She doesn’t understand how her skin color makes her inferior to white people. Her father must jump through hoops to vote and her mother can’t get treated for a snake bite when the only black doctor is out of town. 

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