Life on a 1930s Wisconsin farm during the Depression isn't easy, but young Doris Free finds family and small town life to be both challenging and rewarding even as everyone around her struggles, until the arrival of a new black shopkeeper in town adds social struggle to the task of economic survival.
Doris had never seen a black man before (indeed, most in her small town haven't, either) and her first impression of the stranger in town is that he is 'covered in mud' but incongruously appears clean. After all, their isolated small town hasn't been exposed to much of the outside world - and neither has she. All this is about to change in a big way, illustrating how the Depression led to not just economic hardships, but social transformation as people moved out of familiar places and settings and interacted with each other on new levels.
Many books for all ages have been written about the Depression years, but it's this emphasis that is one of the exceptional features of the middle-grade read Doris Free: A Harvest of Friends. The other is an attention to realistic detail. As the young folk observe a changing adult world, they continue their childhood pursuits; and events integrate and translate themselves into a child's perspective rather than taking the usual approach of observations far beyond a child's maturity.
Doris Free does a fine job of realistically portraying a myriad of personal and social changes through the eyes of a young girl who learns what it means to truly make a difference....Continua