By Lisa Olson
During one of the most trying periods in American history, the Dust Bowl Era, when the dust storms came and scoured the earth, a little girl nurtures a courageous seedling she found trying to survive in the harsh and unforgiving conditions. She knows the blooms would bring a smile to her Mama’s tired face, as she has heard stories of the garden she used to keep. What she doesn’t know is that the little flower promises something even more precious: Hope.
This is the first book in the Tales from American HerStory series, in which tidbits of American history are explored from the vantage point of a girl protagonist.
BOOKS BY LISA GAMMON OLSON
Dust Flowers / Sewing the Magic In / The Cheese Song / Remembering Green / And the Trees Began to Move / River of Light / Fig Newton Summer
Media and Reviews:
Midwest Book Review:
"Everything about this touching story is soft and moving. From the illustrations by Kyle Olson, to the times in history that tore at the heart of its people. The reality of loss and hardship seen through a young child's eyes, relates to us the dark days of drought that created the historic Dust Bowl Era of the early 1930s. This is a tender tale of love and hope, reminding us of the strength of those before us who endured and overcame, and forged the path we now travel. This is the first in a series to discover our nation's past. I'm looking forward to the next."
Bonnie Ferrante Books for Children:
"This lovely and engaging picture book tells the story of the dust bowl era in the United States through the eyes of a little girl. Her grandmother tells her stories of the beauty of the land before the drought. The little girl has no memory of it and barely remembers her mother ever wearing a smile.
One day the girl finds a little green shoot and secretly waters it until it until it blooms into a gorgeous vine of morning glories. When her mother sees it, she smiles and dances with joy with her daughter. Although another dust storm is rising, they also hear the sound of thunder foretelling the coming end of the drought.
The pictures are soft, expressive watercolour hinting at dust without being overly oppressive. The story is told with tact, beauty, hope, and charm. I did, however find the occasional fully capitalize the word distracting and did not understand its purpose. This wonderful book would be a great addition to any classroom shelf or child’s personal book collection."
Frog on a Blog:
“It’s easy to get sucked up into the enormity of life and not think you could ever make a difference. That’s what I like all my books to say. YOU ARE IMPORTANT!!!” ~Lisa Olson
I love this quote by Lisa Gammon Olson, author of the American Herstory series! Lisa contacted me recently about her picture book series and I could tell (even through e-mail correspondence) that she’s very passionate about what she wants young readers to take away from her books. I asked Lisa to tell us more about the books and the messages they impart.
My American Herstory Series started where every story starts…with a Once Upon a Time…a small snippet of time from our past, as seen through the eyes of one young girl.
Working as a secretary in a small rural elementary school has given me a glimpse into the inner workings of a child’s heart and mind. I see their need for acceptance, for praise and to feel valued as an integral part of the daily school routine.
My father taught 9th grade World Geography and American History. My three sisters and I grew up immersed in daily discussions of current and historical events, interconnected and tightly woven together, todays, tomorrows and yesterdays… sewn together in the colorful patchwork quilt of life. I’ve always been amazed at the tenacity of the human spirit and the will to survive and even thrive in harsh conditions throughout history.
So, in wanting to validate every child’s sense of belonging, coupled with a passion for history, Dust Flowers, came to life. The first book in this historical fiction series takes place during one of the most difficult periods in American history, the Dust Bowl Era. Imagine being a child, watching your parents struggle to farm during a decade long drought, besieged with daily black blizzards of swirling dust and not having ever felt a drop of rain in your entire lifetime. What could one small girl do in the enormity of a drought? Every act, no matter how small, can change someone’s life for the better. Growing a flower and bringing a smile to her mother’s sad face promises something even more precious…hope!
"I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I owe a debt of gratitude to a group of authors (or perhaps a single author) whose name I don’t remember. She, he, or they wrote a series of biographies for young girls about smart, tough American women who sidestepped society’s boundaries and accomplished things no one thought they could accomplish. I grabbed each new volume as soon as it appeared in the school library. They were just what a smart nerdy girl needed at the time. They also put me one step further along the path to being a history buff.
I thought of those books when two picture books by Lisa Gammon Olson came across my desk: Dust Flowers and Sewing the Magic In At the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. The books are the first two volumes in her Tales From American HerStory series, which she describes as “One moment in American History as seen through the eyes of one young girl.” In each book, Olson sets a young female protagonist in a vividly evoked historical setting that is central to the plot–the Dust Bowl of the 1930s in one case and the early years of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in the other. Each book ends with an essay of historical nonfiction that gives more information about the historical world in which the book is set. The writing is lovely. The illustrations are charming. The stories are age appropriate for elementary school students but strong enough to grab me by the feels. I suspect that thirty or forty years down the road, there are going to be some grown women who remember Ms. Olson’s book as one of their first steps toward history bugg-hood.
I planned to give my copies to the little girls who live next door. Looking at them again, I’m not sure I can bear to give them up."