Someplace to Call Home
BY SANDRA DALLAS
In 1933, what's left of the Turner family--twelve-year-old Hallie and her two brothers--finds itself driving the back roads of rural America. The children have been swept up into a new migratory way of life. America is facing two devastating crises: the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Hundreds of thousands of people in cities across the country have lost jobs. In rural America it isn't any better as crops suffer from the never-ending drought.
Driven by severe economic hardship, thousands of people take to the road to seek whatever work they can find, often splintering fragile families in the process. As the Turner children move from town to town, searching for work and trying to cobble together the basic necessities of life, they are met with suspicion and hostility. They are viewed as outsiders in their own country. Will they ever find a place to call home? New York Times-bestselling author Sandra Dallas gives middle-grade readers a timely story of young people searching for a home and a better way of life.
PUBLISHED SEPT 2019
From Kirkus Reviews, June 10, 2019:
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.
When I was growing up, my folks talked a great deal about the Great Depression. They were married in 1933, lost their jobs shortly after that, and moved to my grandparents’ farm in Harveyville, Kansas. Times were tough. Dad made only fifty cents that summer. They had little money, but they had a home with family and friends. Mom remembered not just the hardship of those times but the love and laughter, the way people came together. I wanted to include all that in Someplace to Call Home. Life is hard for the three orphans, Tom, Hallie, and Ben, but they have each other. They have the integrity and the hope that my parents did. And ultimately, like Mom and Dad, they pull through because they don’t give up.
The book went through numerous drafts. In the first go-around, I had the entire Turner family driving through Kansas looking for work. Ben was a minor character. But it became obvious as I worked on the book that it should be about just three children and that Ben should play a major role.