FDR's Alphabet Soup: New Deal America 1932-1939
by Tonya Bolden
published by Knopf
FDR’S New Deal, which followed the 1929 stock market crash, was a hugely influential moment in the history of the United States, encompassing everything from the arts to finance, labor to legislation, and some think it helped bring the country out of the Great Depression. Here, Tonya Bolden, writing in her trademark accessible style, creates a portrait of a time that changed American history both then and now.
FDR’s First 100 Days and how the United States was changed by it then are closely examined, especially now. The 2009 financial situation is eerily mirrored by that of the late 1920s, and this is a perfect book to help teens understand history and its lasting impact on current events.
It has taken me much longer than expected to get through this book. I love the idea of it, and the design. To me, though, it reads too much like a social studies textbook. Ironically, I feel this way despite the fact that Bolden uses a lot of informal language that you'd think might spice it up a bit. There's so much information about so many different things and people that I have trouble remembering the details, and also I'm not finding a cohesive story to follow. That's how I felt when I had to read social studies textbooks in junior high and high school.
There are some positives to this book, too. There are a lot of great images from the New Deal period in it, and lots of interesting facts and quotes scattered throughout. This book may be better for browsing than straight reading. The glossary is great for keeping up with all of the New Deal acronyms (AAA, WPA, FERA, FDIC, etc., etc.). The list of selected sources is extensive and would be very useful for students doing research.
I had a thirteen-year old volunteer look at several nonfiction books recently, and evaluate which ones she would like to read. This is one that she was especially interested in, based on the subject matter (she's studied it in school) and the overall design. Once she has a chance to read the book and give me her thoughts on it, I will add them to this post.