Title: All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky
Author: Joe R. Lansdale
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September, 2011
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction/Novel
Summary: Jack is an orphan- his mother died of dust pneumonia and his father hanged himself- and he cannot take it in Oklahoma any more. The dust bowl has officially taken over and is sucking the life out of everything it can. While determining his plan, Jane, a neighbor girl, and her brother, Tony, trudge into his front yard looking for help because they too have lost everything in their lives. The three decide to steal a dead neighbor's car and make their way to Texas where Jane and Tony have relatives. This decision starts an adventure that none of them could have bargained for including mobsters, guns, alligators, slavery, train hopping and a carnival.
What I Think: When you begin this book, you think you are going to read a normal historical fiction book about the dust bowl. The beginning is so depressing- filled with death and dust- expressing the emotion of the era. I felt that it captured the dust bowl so well. Our characters were dealing with tragedies in their life that we can't even imagine happening to us, but the children just breezed over it like it was a normal day occurrence. But then the book changed. I still don't really know how I feel about the book because it was so far from what I was expecting. When the kids meet mobsters on the side of the road, I couldn't believe that the author made that choice for this story, but then everything kind of snowballed from there and I was sucked into this crazy movie-esque adventure where just when everything seemed okay, something else horrible would happen.
Although I question the plot, I did really enjoy the characters. Jack was a simple good-ole-boy and all throughout his narration I could hear his voice in my head. Jane, on the other hand, was anything but your normal girl from this era. She was well read, always comparing their journeys to the quests of Sir Galahad, Odysseus, Jason or another story, and she had a mind of her own. I love that she stood up for herself often and wouldn't waver from what she believed in. Although she was a big liar, she often used it for good, not evil and overall was a fantastic story teller. Tony, her brother, was the side kick and bit of humor in the story. He was a sweet boy who had to make some tough choices. The characters are really what made this story.
*secret* I really dislike the cover. I think it looks way too modern and also doesn't capture the essence of the story. *sh*
Read Together: Grades 7 to 10
Read Alone: Grades 7 to 12
Read With: Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, Billy Creekmore by Tracey Porter, Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis, The Misadventures of Maude March by Aubrey Couloumbis, Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
"The sand was sill blowing, and it was coming through the house the way a ghost would walk through a wall... It was everywhere. In the curtains and on the shelves and in the pages of books, and it coated the face and tipped the tongue and gave everything you ate a trail-spice taste. I was always wiping or washing it out of my eyes." (p. 6)
"I guess we was being pretty casual about death, but for the last couple of years it had been all around us, and as of recent, up close and personal. It was the sort of thing that stunned you at the same time it made you feel as empty as a corn crib after the rats had been in it." (p. 22)
Mentor Text for: Characterization, Voice
Writing Prompts: Is it ever okay to lie? Explain your answer.
Topics Covered: Cross curricular- Dust Bowl & Great Depression, Death, Theft, Lies, Morals, Family
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