The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression Book Review

Updated on July 28, 2017

An introduction to the book

When the great depression started in 1929, it sent the USA into despair and shock. It began with the wall street crash and lasted roughly 10 years. With millions of people losing their jobs, it left them and their families penniless and hungry. It is without a doubt one of the worst times in history. With all this going on, little Shirley Temple made a scene at theatres across America. Born on 23 April 1928, little did America know at the time that she was going to grow up to be one of the most recognisable people on the planet. She proved to be a little ray of sunshine amongst all the horrid affairs and financial horrors that was hitting American families so hard.

The book cover

A short summary of the book

For 4 years running Shirley Temple was the at the top of the box office. This little girl was so well known and famous she was the most photographed person in the world. But, why did people love her so much and take her to their hearts? This book explains why Shirley Temple was so popular. At a time when America was at such a low point financially and suffering with the great depression, this book explains how her little smile and dancing beamed onto the theatre big screen and brought joy and light into thousands of peoples lives. Although this book isn't a biography about Shirley as such, it is more a book of the films she was in, her ultimate success throughout the depression and finally, how the world became a little tiresome of the films having a similar storyline whilst Shirley was, inevitably, growing up.

Shirley Temple

About the book

Author: John F Kasson

Published: 2014

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co

Pages: 308

Born on 23 April 1928, Shirley was the 3rd child to Gertrude and George Russell. Gertrude being a home maker and George working in a bank, little did they know what their little girl would grow up to be. At just 3 years old, Gertrude enrolled Shirley into the Meglin's Dance School. When casting director Charles Lamont spotted her, he saw her potential. Her first roles was in a series of 1 and 2 reel shows called Baby Burlesks. It wasn't long before she was being cast into films, and soon became an international hit around the world.

This book isn't so much a biography about Shirley Temple, but more of the affect she had on people throughout the great depression. The great depression is said to have started from the stock market crash in 1929 and lasted about 10 years. It was during this time that little Shirley was a child actress and proved to be a little ray of sunshine to millions of people. Really, there's not a great deal about the book that is about Shirley as such, but more about the films she was in, how they did in the cinema's, and what the critics said. As America struggled financially, it seems that Temples films were a welcome release for movie goers. As a cute little girl people around the world seemed to have embraced her and loved her.

John Kasson touches on the great depression and how it affected every day life. In fact, chapter 1 is about Theodore Roosevelt. It is interesting to read what America was going through in the 30's and also the films Shirley Temple starred in from such a young age, and over the next 3 or 4 years, how she grew up and the extrodinary effect she had around the globe. Shirley seemed to have such a happy, outgoing personality and such a cute little face, that people couldn't help but fall in love with her. One couple said they have a picture of her on their mantel piece. Being childless themselves, they said they look at the picture and wish they could have a little girl like her. You see, people seemed to love and adore her. It was through these depressing and sad days that Shirley seemed to shine a light on people through her films.

Yet the public fascination with her personality meant that her own family's private life was rocked as well. This was the ironic outcome of Gertrude Temple's ambitions for her daughter. Mrs Temple could not have imagined the scale of Shirley's ultimate celebrity when she groomed her child as a performer, for her magnitude of that success was unprecedented.

— John F. Kasson

Shirley Temple & Bill Robinson

Final summary and thoughts

This was an interesting book to read. Although I had heard of the great depression, I had little knowledge of the magnitude in which it affected people. Shirley Temple growing up in a time when people were at their lowest seemed to be a little ray of sunshine in their lives. The films she starred in shot her into the limelight and into the hearts of millions of people around the world. The book explains the enormity of her success when merchandise based on Shirley was selling like wildfire, especially Shirley Temple dolls. Not to mention the many look-a-like contest that were going on around the world with Shirley Temple related prizes to be won.

She was, indeed, a beautiful little girl and this book highlights her success and how her films touched people during this time. I feel this book is interesting for anyone interested in the history of the movie industry. I like the fact that John Kasson has done so much research with this book, as this is proved at the back of the book with the relevant notes from where he got his information. There are pictures of Shirley peppered throughout the book in her film roles. This I found useful as you see pictures of Shirley as a little girl and growing up in later films. This was definitely an interesting book to read and found I learned a lot about Shirley Temple and the affects the great depression had on people.

Questions & Answers


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      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        I think that almost everyone fell in love with Shirley Temple. She was such a cute and talented child! The fact that she presented such a ray of sunshine during the Great Depression makes sense. Thanks for helpng to publicize the book.

      • profile image

        Devika Primic 

        2 months ago

        Shirley Temple an amazing person and had not much knowledge of her until reading this hub. Informative and hope to get this book. Your review encourages me to do so.

      • Coffeequeeen profile imageAUTHOR

        Louise Powles 

        12 months ago from Norfolk, England

        Thankyou very much Tamara for the lovely comment. That's very kind of you. =)

      • Rhyme Vine Poetry profile image

        Tamara BBYCGN 

        12 months ago from Uninhabited Regions

        I loved Shirley Temple, watched all of her movies, and was mesmerized by her tap dancing! This is an endearing post, and Shirley Temple will always be a treasure. Thank you for sharing this! I see that I already commented on this post awhile back, but this article is deserving of many!

      • ethel smith profile image

        Ethel Smith 

        18 months ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

        Sounds a good read thanks Louise.

        She was such a cutie, Miss Sugar and Spice, and so talented

      • profile image

        Laura Tallo 

        2 years ago

        I really enjoyed your review of this book. I used to watch Shirley Temple movies when I was younger, and I loved them. However, I wasn't alive during The Great Depression, her movies were still popular when I was a child in the 1960s.

      • profile image

        Tamara Moore 

        2 years ago

        I am so glad to see this post because I just love watching movies with Shirley Temple! It makes me feel so alive watching her tap dance, and smiling from ear-to-ear. And, her curls!

        Thank you!

      • profile image


        2 years ago

        She was so adorable!

      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 

        2 years ago from SW England

        P.S. Thanks for following me!


      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 

        2 years ago from SW England

        I remember hearing her songs on the radio when I was little but I'd no idea what happened to her as an adult, until I read Glenis' comment below.

        Thanks for the review.


      • grand old lady profile image

        Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

        2 years ago from Philippines

        What a wonderful review:). I find it delightful to know that Shirley Temple (who I idolized as a child) was more than a talented little actress, and that she was an inspiration that was badly needed in one of the hardest periods of life in the USA. I also loved the fact that when she was an adult, she didn't go the way of many child stars who lose their fame as adults. Instead, she did something that would be true of the characters she played, she went into public service and served as an ambassador to the U.N. and had a great career in diplomacy. I think we tend to think of Shirley as just a little girl who made people happy. But your review of this book shows the depth of what she achieved, aside from the quality of her character.

      • vocalcoach profile image

        Audrey Hunt 

        2 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        She was one-of-a-kind. There's never been anyone to match Shirley Temple. Thank you for this book review. It's on my list.

      • Debangee Mandal profile image


        2 years ago from India

        Such a good and interesting review. I'll surely buy this book to know the rest.

      • Glenis Rix profile image


        2 years ago from UK

        She was certainly a charming child and when she grew became an ambassador for her country. Incidentally, have you seen the tot on the A.A. tv ad? She reminds me of S.Temple.

      • dumdummy profile image

        Goh Tong Keat 

        2 years ago from Malaysia

        Saw this book at the bookstore. Glad that I found your review.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

        It's great that Shirley Temple brought some joy to people during the Depression. She had such a lovely smile.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image


        2 years ago from USA

        Thanks for this review. I didn't know they used to have dolls and look a like contests in her honor. I'd love to check out this book.

      • Shyron E Shenko profile image

        Shyron E Shenko 

        2 years ago from Texas

        Louise, I still love Shirley Temple and all her movies. And I enjoy them. I have a great granddaughter who could be a look alike for Shirley, except she wears glasses, yes even at 3 years old.

        I did enjoy the review.

        Blessings my friend

      • Kyriaki Chatzi profile image

        Kyriaki Chatzi 

        2 years ago

        Even though I am not from U.S., I am a fan of Shirley Temple.

        "The Little Princess" holds a special place in my heart. She looked so adorable!

        I might give this book a try. Thank you for bringing it to my attention, Louise.

      • lambservant profile image

        Lori Colbo 

        2 years ago from Pacific Northwest

        Who doesn't love Shirley Temple. I will definitely be getting this book. Thanks for this heartwarming share.


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