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    Doris Free brings peace to her home town

    Young Doris Free is the heroine of this wonderful book. It is 1931 in the little farming town of Toma, Wisconsin, and America’s Great Depression has come. Times are rough for everyone across the country, but maybe not quite so rough in Toma. Here, everyone is able to grow their own food and livestock. They are able to survive with hard work, and if luck is on their side. We learn what it was like to labor on a farm during those years and how the whole family must work together in order to survive. Then a Chicago family moves to Toma to open a general store and the great upheaval begins. With them they bring another stranger. A stranger like most of the citizens have never seen. The differences between farm life and city life become a lesson difficult for almost everyone in the town to learn. Frightening and dangerous things begin to take place, and the entire town is in an upheaval. This is a story, which shows us how Doris, a sensitive and helpful girl, and her friends attempt to heal the anger and prejudices of the citizens of their town. Will the children find a way to remedy this crisis before they lose a good friend? It begins to look very doubtful.
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    How The Depression Brings Social Changes to Doris

    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.
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