FDR's Alphabet Soup: New Deal America, 1932-1939

FDR's Alphabet Soup: New Deal America, 1932-1939

by Tonya Bolden

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Annie Laura Smith
The author takes the reader on a journey through President Roosevelt's first 100 days in office when he unveiled his New Deal which was developed to combat the Depression. These programs, known by their initials, were designed to save businesses and take care of the elderly. It was especially important after the depression to put more money back into the economy so America could make an economic comeback. Bolden cites events in this period that were pivotal in American history and includes both successes and failures. Black-and-white photographs with definitive photo captions and other illustrations supplement the text. These include memorabilia and reproductions of primary source materials. An extensive glossary defines initials, acronyms, and terms as they are used in the book. Selected sources document her meticulous research for this period of history. An index provides easy navigation through the text. The conversational tone will bring this period of history alive for young readers and would be an excellent supplement to the classroom history curriculum. Reviewer: Annie Laura Smith
VOYA - Ava Ehde
This thoughtful and informative portrait examines both the controversies and the fears experienced in the period after the crash of the stock market. People were broke and hungry, and Hoovervilles were commonplace. The resounding impact and influence of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal upon the depressed country is perhaps best demonstrated by the postscript that details the fate decades later of many New Deal actions. This clear and concise depiction also explains the policies and politics that started the myriad of new agencies, deals, and regulations; many are best remembered as titled acronyms, most of which were created within the first one hundred days FDR was in office. All sides of the political argument are shown, which allows readers to rate the New Deal for themselves. This comprehensive and helpful book portrays a difficult and controversial period in history. It would be an excellent resource for projects and assignments, but it is not likely to be a popular read. There are many timely parallels with current economic and political issues affecting America today, and teens may note the ongoing impact of history. The text is also filled with aptly described historical photographs and icons. Reviewer: Ava Ehde
Publishers Weekly
Bolden's (George Washington Carver) vivid and well-researched account of America's New Deal comprises detail-packed chapters bursting with acronyms, explanatory sidebars, margins filled with quotations, and b&w photos. The concise, conversational style and sometimes glib tone (“Had Giuseppe Zangara been an ace assassin, FDR would have been Dead Man of the Year”) keeps the narrative lively, helping readers make sense of a complex set of issues and policies. The many acronyms (FERA, NRA, RFC, SPA, etc.) often necessitate flipping back for reference, and, as the title suggests, it can be difficult to keep them straight. The book excels at contextualizing FDR's new programs and agencies within the political landscape and in noting how they affected minorities, women, labor, and the arts. Bolden also highlights opposition to New Deal policies. She doesn't skew judgment about the programs' effectiveness, though a concluding half-page chapter notes, “[T]here is consensus that the New Deal did not kick [the Great Depression] out, but that World War II did.” An author's note compares FDR's era to today's economic crisis, and a glossary defines terms and acronyms. Ages 12–up. (Jan.)
School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—Bolden uses the myriad programs of the New Deal, collectively called "alphabet soup" because they were known by their initials or acronyms, as a metaphor to describe how Roosevelt's policies and legislation gave vital nourishment to the American people and created permanent changes in the government and economy. She opens with a discussion of the unprecedented crisis of the Great Depression and Roosevelt's subsequent election, but devotes most of the book to the creation and implementation of New Deal agencies and programs, and includes quotes and primary-source excerpts to show how different segments of the population, such as workers and investors, viewed Roosevelt and his policies. The author views the New Deal positively, but does discuss how it polarized the American people and drew opposition from both the left and the right. The narrative is supplemented by numerous sidebars and facing-page inserts that provide additional information and well-captioned, high-quality reproductions of period photos and artifacts. Bolden's writing style is contemporary, with brief sentences, short paragraphs, and vocabulary that uses slang and abbreviations that may not win adult approval but will appeal to teens. The book is more focused on the New Deal than Edmund Lindop and Margaret J. Goldstein's America in the 1930s (21st Century Bks., 2009), which offers a more comprehensive overview of American life during the decade.—Mary Mueller, Rolla Junior High School, MO
Kirkus Reviews
Explaining the complexities of Roosevelt's New Deal initiatives and their economic impacts is a daunting task for any writer, but Bolden rises to the occasion with an accessible and thoughtful text that clearly and succinctly explains the agencies and programs that came out of FDR's first 100 days in office. She adeptly explains the controversies and fears New Deal initiatives stirred; Roosevelt was accused of bringing communism, fascism and socialism to America with policies that necessitated unprecedented government intervention and spending. The author explains what historians agree and disagree on as to the effectiveness of the New Deal, asking, "What kind of deal was the New Deal?" and inviting readers to examine their own politics, priorities and ideals to help them decide if the New Deal was a "good deal, raw deal, or a misdeal." Informed readers will easily recognize the parallels between the Great Depression and America's current economic and political climate. The revealing, insightful text is richly illustrated with photographs and archival images and punctuated by contemporary quotes. (chronology, glossary, source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Tonya Bolden is the author of more than 20 books for young readers. She lives in the Bronx, New York.

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