The year 1933 is a rough time for three kids to be on their own, but the Turners prove themselves capable.
The rest of their family has passed away or disappeared, and 12-year-old Hallie, 16-year-old Tom, and 6-year-old Benny are driving west looking for work when their car breaks down on the side of the road, beyond affordable repair. Luckily, the land where they camp is owned by the Carlsons, a nice farming family that understands both what it means to struggle and what it’s like to care for a child like Benny, since their daughter is similar. “His face wasn’t like other babies’ faces. As he grew older, he didn’t seem to learn as quickly as other children.” They make the orphans feel welcome as winter sets in. But will the rest of the community come to accept the Turners as more than squatters? It takes a near tragedy to find out. Dallas offers up her signature blend of compelling plot, vivid characters, and riveting history to both entertain and enlighten about a hard decade, though Benny, who evidently has Down syndrome, does come across as a plot device. Most main and secondary characters feel fully realized and three-dimensional, while the setting is drawn with delicate-but-vivid strokes and feels almost like its own character. This narrative is full of fascinating details about flour-sack dresses and bean sandwiches. Characters seem to default to white, with no mention of skin color.
A story of the Great Depression that’s both gritty and gratifying. (glossary) (Historical fiction. 9-12)