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Angels in the Dust

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A young girl growing up in the heart of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s witnesses the people of her community becoming true friends, joining together like angels to help life go on. Beautiful pastel artwork illustrates this heartwarming tale based on a true story.

32 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1997

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Margot Theis Raven

10 books11 followers

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5 stars
11 (26%)
4 stars
15 (36%)
3 stars
14 (34%)
2 stars
1 (2%)
1 star
0 (0%)
Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews
Profile Image for booklady.
2,325 reviews65 followers
February 23, 2018
Saw this scanning my children’s shelves yesterday and had to pull it down. It is a favorite, not just because it is about my state, Oklahoma. The characters are strong people who face the worst possible times yet remain hardworking, loving, helpful, loyal and supportive neighbors. The children in the story lose almost everything, but even they hold to each other and if they cannot make Snow Angels, then they can make Dust Angels. We were in the middle of a mini-ice storm yesterday so it was especially poignant.

The artwork is gorgeous, but even better, the story is based on the real memories of Annie Cronkhite Bender who lived in Guymon, OK in the Panhandle region of the state during the ‘Dirty Thirties’, when the drought stricken-five-state area of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma suffered severe land erosion. The last page of the book has a brief explanation about the times and Annie.

I am so glad I own this book. God willing, someday I will get to read this to my grandchildren, and maybe even travel with them to the Panhandle and visit Guymon.

October 22, 2009: Reread this. Read it 4 years ago. In my stack of books to loan to my RE teachers.
Profile Image for Celia.
1,235 reviews165 followers
April 17, 2019
Angels in the Dust is a beautifully written and beautifully illustrated children's book. It is based on the Depression and the effects of the Dust Bowl that occurred. It is historical fiction for the young.

Black blizzards blew in from the north. Each night before bed, Annie and Bessie stuffed paper into the cracks so that the dust would not blow in. Even so, in the morning, the sandy grit covered them from head to toe. It covered the kitchen table as well. Annie, the older child helped Bessie write out her name in the dust. Annie, Mama would say, you make me think nothing’s so bad that it isn’t good for something.

In the Author's Note, Raven states there really was an Annie Bender who experienced these storms. Annie grew up in Guymon, OK, the heart of the storms. Between 1933 and 1937, the town weathered 352 storms, one every five days!!

It is heartwarming to read such a book for children. Imagine what they have learned. I learned something, too.

Thank you to my friend, booklady, who reviewed and introduced me to this book.

5 stars
Profile Image for Trevor Oakley.
385 reviews1 follower
January 27, 2008
Very different from previous historical fiction books for kids taking place during the dust bowl. Powerful imagery and images throughout really make it feel like the dust pervades every part of daily life. Most striking is a paragraph about the dust settling at night -- it covers the bed linens, leaving an outline of where one slept.
6 reviews
November 1, 2017
I think this is one of the only children's books, aside from The Little Match Girl, to bring tears to my eyes. The story of a family living through the Dust Bowl and the struggles they face, not to mention losing their mother. This is a story of strength and endurance through one of history's worst times.

Although the story is told by a journalist, I think she does an incredible job of telling this family's story. She actually went to visit the family and based this book off their accounts. Some of the information was surprising, especially about how the girls would wake up every morning covered in dust. There is such a strong sense of community and family. I think this is a good account of history, as well as a wonderful story.

Scholastic recommends the book for grades 3-5, but I would say maybe 3rd grade is a little too young for this heart-wrenching story. This book would be perfect to teach about the Great Depression and the toll it took on people at the time, but also how they came together to overcome the drought.
Profile Image for Sarah.
81 reviews4 followers
November 21, 2009
In Angels in the Dust the author effectively conveys the “Dust Bowl” of the Great Depression as a menacing antagonist against Annie’s family and their small farm town in Oklahoma. Based on the author’s research and interviews with people who lived during this era, she tells of the dust that got into every single open space it could. Even when precautions were made to close up every crack in the house, it “[s:]till came to call like an unwanted visitor” (unmarked page). It choked the life out plants and people, alike, literally. Like many good stories, a hero must try to fight the villain in any way possible. Here our hero comes in the form of a preteen girl named Annie. Through determination and a strong spirit, Annie does her best, if not to run the beast out of town, then at least to keep it from winning.

This is one of those books I found just by seeing it on the shelf and not through the computer catalogue, nor by the suggestion of another person. I am glad I happened to pick it up. I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it!

This book would be a great read-aloud or a wonderful book to include in a study of the Dust Bowl and how it affected the farm communities during the Great Depression. Through Angels in the Dust, primary and middle-elementary grade level students are given an approachable, interesting story by which to learn about this era. The story is also told from the point of view of a young girl, allowing students access into her world, and how she lived during such harsh conditions. This book could be used as a jumping off point to start a study of the era. In such a study, 3rd to 5th grade students could research the agricultural, environmental, industrial, economic, and political impacts this had on local and global levels. Students could explain the effects these had on future generations, and how we do things today.
37 reviews
February 18, 2015
Reaction: I thought the story was an interesting perspective on the Dust Bowl. Living in Kansas, I have heard many stories from the Dust Bowl but had never really seen it from this perspective in a Children's book. The story was really sad but very enlightening of the struggle people faced during the Dust Bowl.


Curriculum: This can definitely be used in a history lesson of any states in the Midwest if the lesson has to do with the Dust Bowl. The story is coming from a child's perspective of what it was like to live during this time which can make the event seem more relatable to the students. The story has a lot of great illustrations so it can help answer any questions of what the states looked like during the Dust Bowl. IT really captures the essence of the historical event.

Independent: I would suggest this book to children who have lost someone close to them that they loved. The little girls in the story lose their mother so they begin to believe the dust is their mom. It can teach the students that their family might not always be there physically but you can remember they can be there for you in their memory. This can be comforting and a good lesson.
February 21, 2015
Personal Reaction: I absolutely loved this book. Particularly I liked the message it communicated about the importance of family, friends, and community. I think kids could relate well to this lesson.

I think this book is appropriate for grades 1st and 2nd. I would use this to introduce the topic of the dust bowl and to teach the idea of a drought. This book is also based on a true story, on the experiences of a woman named Annie Bender, so you can tell that you would be telling students all about factual experiences not made up ones. I think this book has good vocabulary, some examples being "drought", "plains", and "withered". It also has vivid examples of imagery such as "the house became a wall of flames". It also uses personification, for example "the wind danced away with her gown in a soft prairie waltz". I think students would particularly like this book because of the strong family and community ties that the book exhibits, they can relate with the strong ties they have with their own family or community.
28 reviews1 follower
Want to read
December 6, 2014
Angels in the Dust is a lexile level 650 which translates to a reading level of N. The target reading level in 5th grade is T, U and V by the end of 5th grade. Because this book is so far below grade level it would be great to read in guided reading group to work on skills with my special education students that are below reading level. IT is also an excellent extension of Dust Bowl discussion started in Esperanza Rising.
NYS CC Standard: Students will Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view
they represent.

Profile Image for Marcia.
252 reviews1 follower
March 4, 2009
Heartwarming story of life in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. Beautiful watercolor illustrations. Well researched. Author's note provides information about the real Annie who grew up near Guymon, OK between 1933 and 1937 when Guymon experienced 352 dust storms.
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