Casey has a Ph.D. in sociology and has 15 years of experience in academia.
In junior high and high schools where I live, teachers often assign historical fiction books to help teach students history through storytelling. Irene Hunt is an author that has written a few historical fiction books that have become popularly used in classrooms for this purpose.
Hunt's No Promises in the Wind is a great story to assign juvenile readers to help them understand the Great Depression and the hardships Americans faced during that time period. Juvenile readers may connect with the teenage main character and relate his experiences during the Great Depression to their experiences in daily life.
A Brief Overview of the Plot
No Promises in the Wind follows 15-year-old Josh beginning in 1932 during the Great Depression. Josh and his family suffer from poverty due to the lack of available work. His father struggles to provide enough food for the family. Because he feels like a failure, he is an angry man and constantly takes out his anger by yelling at Josh.
Deciding that his family would be better off without another mouth to feed, Josh leaves to try to make it own his own. His 10-year-old brother Joey and his best friend Howie join him on his journey. For a while, the three work as musicians while on the road, playing on street corners to earn enough money to buy food.
Their music doesn't always earn them enough money, so they survive by begging on the streets. They live a hard and dangerous life trying to find work. They starve and freeze as the weather turns colder and winter approaches. As they travel, they befriend kind people who are also struggling but willing to help the children survive in the harsh world they share.
No Promises in the Wind as a Teaching Tool for Students
This book would be a great story for students to read while learning the history of the Great Depression in school. Hunt wrote the book with young readers in mind, so it is an easy story to read and understand. The characters and story are fictional, but the historical events it relates are real.
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The story of Josh and his family can help young readers understand what life was really like during the Great Depression. Many young children had to work to help support their families. Life could be hard for children in the 1930s because many of the child protection laws that exist today were not in place back then. Child workers were often forced to work long hours in unhealthy and dangerous working conditions for very little pay.
Sometimes, when reading a history textbook, it is difficult to envision what life might have felt like during various historical time periods. No Promises in the Wind by Irene Hunt provides a fictional but historical tale to help children imagine what it was like to be a kid during the Great Depression. Reading this novel would definitely help young students connect with what childhood was like in the 1930s.
Joey didn’t reply, but he looked me directly in the eye, and the expression on his face was not that of the adoring little brother. There was a cold, critical look in his eyes; I had a feeling that if I had wanted to fight, Joey would have fought right back”.
— Irene Hunt, "No Promises in the Wind" (Page 123)
No Promises in the Wind is an easy book to read, and it contains deep and intense emotional scenes. The quote above is from a section of the story in which John and his little brother Joey grow apart due to struggles on their journey. Living during the Great Depression, John and Joey struggle to earn money and find food. The two clash over resources and whether it is right to share the little food they have with those who help them or be selfish and keep it to themselves.
John is a child dealing with adult problems. Juvenile readers can relate to the worries and struggles of young characters in the book to understand what life might have been like during the Great Depression.
Teaching Resources to Accompany the Book
- Quiz Questions for Chapters 1 through 5
- Quiz Questions for Chapters 6 through 11
- Essay Topics and Chapter Summaries
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2020 Casey White