NEXT YEAR © 2017
Creative Editions
Author: Ruth Vander Zee / Illustrator: Gary Kelley
*Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, August 2017
 

An early adolescent boy who lives with his parents on their farm during the Dust Bowl tells his story in this picture book. In 1935, Calvin, the white narrator, is 12. He lives with Ma and Dad (both also white) on a farm on a prairie that has become, because of the four-year drought, a land of starving cattle, withered crops, and dust storms. Calvins father, discouraged but clinging to hope, tells him, Its gonna be better next year. But it doesnt get better for four more yearsuntil 1939when the rains finally come. By then Calvins parents have had enough, and to Calvins dismay, they pack up and leave. Now 16 and realizing, I love what Ive hated for so long, Calvin stays behind to farm the land in the more sustainable ways he has learned about during the drought. Vander Zees poetic narrative, with its precise distillation and keen perception, brings the poverty and heartbreak of this time powerfully forward, while the storys undercurrent of perseverance, strength of character, and, ultimately, respect and stewardship of the land give it hope. Kelleys magnificent, colorful, black-outlined illustrations flawlessly convey the grandeur of the land as well as the awfulness of that time. The books overall design is stellar, each page a visual tour de force, balancing white space, words, and illustration. Stunning.