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review 2017-11-17 16:58
Fathers and sons in America: A Matt Phelan Masterpost
Bluffton - Matt Phelan
The Storm in the Barn - Matt Phelan

I had said in last week's post that today I'd be writing a Matt Phelan 'masterpost'. Typically this means that I cover 3+ books by a single author (or multiple authors writing together in a series). However, today I'm just going to talk about 2 books because honestly that's all I could get my hands on and so that's all I managed to read. :-) I picked up Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton and The Storm in the Barn with fairly high expectations based on the work I had seen by Phelan in the Comics Squad compilation I read and reviewed not too long ago. On the one hand, I was not at all disappointed. The illustration style is most definitely up my street. He is excellent at drawing evocative expressions on people's faces. I think where I was let down was on the overall reading experience. Let me take each of the books separately so that I can (hopefully) explain what I mean.


I read Bluffton first because it featured a circus and I am all about that circus lifestyle. Firstly, when I grabbed this book I somehow missed the subtitle and therefore was shocked to discover that one of the main characters in this book is that famous star of vaudeville, Buster Keaton. Secondly, I went into this book expecting a rollicking good time and instead got a somewhat borderline depressing narrative of what the childhood of Buster would have entailed since he was a performer from infancy. It's about the expectations that a parent has for their child and how those might be vastly different from the aspirations that the child holds for themselves. It's also about the nature of friendship and jealousy (especially when one of the friends is an itinerant performer). It's a coming of age tale that paints a rather grim picture of child stardom and how the experiences of our youth shape us into the adults that we will one day become.


Then there was The Storm in the Barn which I can only categorize as a Debbie Downer type of book. I'm not sure that this falls under any one genre. It's most certainly historical fiction as it depicts a little boy, his family, and his community as they struggle during the time of the Dust Bowl in Kansas circa 1937. However, it also contains fantasy elements of which I can't really go into without spoiling the plot... It's certainly rooted in reality because Phelan does not shy away from the harsh conditions that these characters face (don't even get me started on the rabbits). He covers bullying from both peers and parents. The protagonist is forced to watch a beloved sister struggle with a possibly fatal illness. The entire plot is fraught with tension and a dark cloud seems to hover over every page. What I'm trying to say is that if you're looking for a light read to send your tots to sleep at night then you should probably keep looking. BUT if you wanted to teach your kids about an era of history that's not usually dwelt upon in the classroom then this might indeed be the right selection for you.


I'd rate both books about the same. In terms of imagery and writing, they're both 10/10. The issue is that I held expectations about these books (as readers do from time to time) and I finished both of these feeling somewhat let down. I understand that not all books are going to be rosy, sweet, and fun. I know that not every book has a happy ending. And yet when these two books delivered hardship, sadness, and loss I was ill prepared and disgruntled. I can't honestly flaw these books and say that from a reviewer's standpoint they were faulty...but I still find it difficult to give them full marks just the same. Does this make sense? I guess my point is that a book can tick off all the boxes and still fall short based on the assumptions of the reader and/or their relative mood when they picked up the book. ¯_(ツ)_/¯


Now let's take a look at Buster from Bluffton followed by a page from The Storm in the Barn:


Source: YouTube



Source: books4school


What's Up Next: Ghost Waltz: A Family Memoir by Ingeborg Day


What I'm Currently Reading: Kid Authors: True Tales of Childhood from Famous Writers by David Stabler

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-02-05 00:36
Dust Bowl Girls
Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team That Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory - Lydia Reeder

Dust Bowl Girls by Lydia Reeder captures a moment - a season - in history in great detail. The connection I do not find in the book is with the individuals – players or coach – themselves. This one leaves with with an interesting bit of Oklahoma and basketball history I did not know about, but not a memorable narrative of people who will stay with me.


Read my complete review at Memories From Books - Dust Bowl Girls


Reviewed for NetGalley


Source: www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2017/02/dust-bowl-girls.html
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review 2016-12-21 11:31
The Great American Dust Bowl
The Great American Dust Bowl - Don Brown

Don Brown does it again! He took a piece of history and made it come alive inside this graphic novel. With glossy illustrations highlighting the dust and the grime that covered the countryside, I learned quite a bit about the American Dust Bowl. I have read other novels about this time period but this one gave me facts and information that I didn’t realize.


Oh, it was a dreadful time in 1935 when the dust clouds first started to form but Brown tells us about the plates that began to move beneath the earth many years before that. He goes into great detail about the bison, and the American Indians who first used the land and how things progressed beyond that. We get the full history before the dust clouds actually arrive. We learn why they came, who they affected, and what damaged they did. It’s a very educational and time-sequenced story, which I highly enjoyed. Imagine experiencing a snow blizzard with dirt in it. Imagine your roof collapsing because there was too much dust on top of it. Imagine birds dying from breathing in the dust from the air. Imagine yourself opening this novel and diving into Don Brown’s Great American Dust Bowl. The illustrations are engaging, the text is geared for upper elementary or middle school readers and when you finally close the last page, you will be well-educated on the Dust Bowl and you would have read one terrific novel.

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review 2016-07-05 17:42
Cimarron Girl, The Dust Bowl Years of Abigail Brubaker by Mike Blanc
Cimarron Girl: The Dust Bowl Years of Abigail Brubaker - Mike Blanc

Cimarron Girl, The Dust Bowl Years of Abigail Brubaker by Mike Blanc is an interesting book for children ages seven to ten years about the drought & a family's experience. I gave it five stars.


Abby learns some hard lessons about life's changes when the drought strikes their farm in Oklahoma. The crops didn't make it & they were almost broke. Like many others they traveled to California for a fresh start. On the way, she heard the term "Okies" used as a pejorative. She decided then to tell people she was from Cimarron.


I received a complimentary copy from Vanita Books & NetGalley. That did not change my opinion for this review.


Link to purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Cimarron-Girl-Years-Abigail-Brubaker/dp/193816413X

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text 2015-05-15 15:50
Pin Ups of The Week! 1930's Romance

You may not find the Great Depression, the rise of Hitler, and start of World War II romantic but what about Big Band Music, Jazz, the end of Prohibtion, the excesses of New York high society? That is all kinds of sexy. 


I know the 1930's isn't as popular with Romance readers as it seems too close and too dark but the time period has a great deal to offer in terms conflict and triumph.


Gangster Culture for those of you in love with Mafia Romance. 




You like a solider hero or heroine? Try the Spainish Civil War, Colombia–Peru War, Chaco War, Second Sino-Japanese War, and the Chinese Civil War as well as the start of World War II. 



Like a naturual distaster to provide an outside conflict? We have the drought causing the Dust Bowl, Santa Cruz del Sur Hurricane Yellow River Flood, Irpinia earthquake, Deep South tornado outbreak, Griffith Park Fire Great New England Hurricane to name a few.


Want powerful historical figures? We have Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Al Capone, Scottsboro Boys, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sir Earle Page, Emperor Haile Selassie, Führer Adolf Hitler, King George VIBenito MussoliniNeville Chamberlain, Ella Baker, William Randolph Hearst. 




Adore social, migration and political movements to impact a character? Nothing better than the New Deal, Mahatma Gandhi and his followers walk to the salt beds of Jalalpur for Indian Indepenance, 21st Amendment (repeals Prohibtion), Memorial Day Massacre in Chicago, Detroit. Nation of Islam is founded,  White women enfranchised in South Africa,  Irish delgates ask freedom from Britain, Birth Control gets some church support.



Like characters dealing with fame? This is the Golden Age of Radio and the Old Hollywood at its most glamous. Sports are wonderful distraction to such hard time and the big bands really swing. Great books are writtern. The stars that shine are: Jesse Owens,  Clark Gable, Orsen Wells,  Will Rogersm Seabiscuit, Charles Chaplin, James Cagney, The Marx Brothers, Robert Frost, Fred Astire, Ginger Rogers,  Anna May Wong, Fats Waller, Lou Gehrig, Shirley Temple, Greta Garbo, Willa Cather, Bing Crosby...





Love technology?  In this decade, Empire State Building, Hoover Dam and the are completed. The First public Television broadcasts in London. Amelia Mary Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean and the Hinderburg blows up.  Telephone Service from the United States to South America is available for the first time. Lindbergh arrives in NY, setting cross-country flying record of 14.75 hrs. First yellow fever vaccine created. 





Want more  1930's images and great Romance Novels set in the 1930's? Of course, you do!


Visit my Pinterest Board: 1930's

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