Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

Top Five Books on Unemployment

Click on the title for each book to see book cover and more details.

  Saving Strawberry Farm
Author:  Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrator: Rachel Isadora
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN:  0-688-17401-9
Year: 2005
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level:  3.4

Concepts: Great Depression, scarcity, auctions, unemployment

  During the Great Depression, Davey learns that a neighbor's property is about to be auctioned, and he rallies his friends, neighbors, and family to help save Strawberry Farm.

Source of Summary: Publisher

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  Leah's Pony
Author:  Elizabeth Friedrich
Illustrator: Michael Garland
Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
ISBN:  1-56397-189-5
Year:  1996
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level:  3.3

Concepts: Great Depression, scarcity, auctions, natural resources, unemployment

  A fine example of successful historical fiction in picture-book format. Leah's parents are farmers in the Great Plains of the 1930s. Amid locusts and drought, their bank forecloses on its loan, ordering a farm auction. Leah sells her beloved pony and uses the money to bid one dollar for her father's tractor. No one has the heart to outbid her.

Source of Summary: School Library Journal Review

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Title: The Lucky Star
Author: Judy Young
Illustrator: Chris Ellison
Publisher:  Sleeping Bear Press
ISBN:  978-1-58536-348-3
Year: 2008
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 4.6

Concepts: human resources, scarcity, Great Depression, unemployment, jobs, recession

Review:  Ruth, a young girl growing up during the Great Depression, has trouble understanding why her mother always seems to see the positive side of bleak situations.  “Count your lucky stars” constitutes Momma’s inevitable reply to her two daughters as she teaches them how to handle life in the face of job loss, food insecurity, hand-me-down shoes from the neighbor, and the closing of the local school. When Ruth’s father gets a new job far from home through President Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps program, Momma counts her lucky stars that the family can pay the mortgage while Ruth sees his departure from home as another star that burns out. Only when Ruth takes the initiative to use her skills in addressing the needs of the youngsters around her does she begin to have a brighter outlook on life.

This outstanding book will help children to gain a richer exposure to principles that are crucial for a basic understanding of the economic world around them. The lessons about unemployment, scarcity, and recession contained in The Lucky Star are important building blocks toward achieving a solid grasp of economics. Teachers and parents can use the book’s poignant illustrations and clear text to help children come to terms with potentially difficult economic times they may be experiencing themselves.

Review by:
 Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

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Title: Rudy Rides the Rails: A Depression Era Story
Author: Dandi Daley Mackall
Illustrator: Chris Ellison
Publisher:  Sleeping Bear Press
ISBN:  978-1-58536-286-8
Year: 2007
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level:  4.3

Concepts: human resources, scarcity, Great Depression, unemployment, economic history, jobs, altruism

Review:  Rudy, a thirteen-year old boy, and his family face extreme hardship during the Great Depression.  More than half of all workers in Akron, Ohio, had lost their jobs, including Rudy’s father, and new paid work was difficult to find.  Ma waited in relief lines for what could often be stale and moldy food, and Rudy’s sisters found sustenance at the soup kitchen and local mission.  Not wanting to be a burden on his struggling family, Rudy decided to take a step similar to other teenagers he had heard about: he hopped a train to go West as a hobo.  Dreams of a better life in California and the chance to send money back home helped to sustain him as he experienced hunger, cold, fear, and fatigue while traveling.  Along the way, Rudy learned of a hidden network of kindhearted strangers who made it a point to feed hungry hobos passing through.

While the Great Depression may seem like a distant and obscure event to young children, this exceptional book brings the topic to life with its moving text and realistic illustrations.  According to the author’s note, a quarter of a million teenagers turned to hobo life as a survival strategy during the Depression, facing issues similar to those that the homeless face today. As historical fiction, Rudy Rides the Rails does an excellent job in providing children with a rich context for understanding problems of unemployment, scarcity, and recession in the economic world around them.

Review by:
 Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

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Title: Fly Away Home
Author: Eve Bunting
Illustrator:  Ronald Himler
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
ISBN: 0-395-55962-6
Year: 1991
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level:  2.7

Concepts: scarcity, unemployment, homelessness

Summary: A homeless boy who lives in an airport with his father, moving from terminal to terminal and trying not to be noticed, is given hope when he sees a trapped bird find its freedom.

Source of Summary: Publisher

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