Silver Rain


Abandoned by her father during the Depression, eleven-year-old Elsie lives in the garage behind her old house with her mother, grandmother Nan and out-of-work uncle. Elsie's friend Scoop accompanies her as she searches for her father in the city, encountering unfriendly hobos, food lines and shantytowns. After both her uncle and her mother disappear on mysterious errands, Elsie and Scoop eventually discover them competing in a dance marathon. Persuading them to abandon the contest, Elsie and Scoop lead the ...

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Silver Rain

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Abandoned by her father during the Depression, eleven-year-old Elsie lives in the garage behind her old house with her mother, grandmother Nan and out-of-work uncle. Elsie's friend Scoop accompanies her as she searches for her father in the city, encountering unfriendly hobos, food lines and shantytowns. After both her uncle and her mother disappear on mysterious errands, Elsie and Scoop eventually discover them competing in a dance marathon. Persuading them to abandon the contest, Elsie and Scoop lead the exhausted dancers home, where Nan has news of Elsie's father and his impending return to the family.

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Editorial Reviews

CM Magazine
"Themes of bleak hopelessness, destitution, and helplessness permeate this gritty, true-to-life story of the 'Dirty Thirties.' It would be a solid addition to libraries…Recommended."
The Vancouver Sun
"Young readers will be right there alongside Elsie as Peterson's spare, fast-paced prose portrays her character and experience with intimacy and warmth...In Peterson's finely wrought, affecting children's fiction, the characters are created with tender consideration for human complexity and frailty, for there is always more to people and why they do what they do."
CD Syndicated
"Silver Rain is They Shoot Horses, Don't They? for the tween set and it must be read…After you pick your jaw up from the floor, however, you'll find that this story feels wholly and respectfully authentic to its time period…Peterson gets the little, evocative details just right."
"Terse, grim, and funny, the plainspoken narrative from Elsie's viewpoint beautifully conveys a child's sense of the times...The surprises are never melodramatic, even as they build to an ending that reveals what despair can force the desperate to do."
Puget Sound Council for Reviewing Children's Media
"Elsie's situation is well written enough to give you heartache...The historical points are well research[ed] and the exploitive dance marathons found during the depression are highlighted, which is an interesting and lesser known situation to learn about. A solid book."
Quill & Quire
"The novel's younger characters are authentic, and the readers will have no trouble seeing the world through Elsie's 11-year-old eyes. Similarly, Ernest "Scoop" Styles, Elsie's charming and curiosity-driven friend, is ably crafted...Well selected periodical details give the book shape and depth."
Resource Links
"Peterson's characters are interesting. They each have their eccentricities and funny foibles and seem very realistic...This book could lead to excellent class discussions [and]...deserves to be read and discussed as part of Canadian studies on the Depression."
Library Media Connection
"This is a story of hope during adversity and the danger of secrets...This accessible story will be received well by younger readers interested in historical function. Recommended."
Children's Literature - Denise Daley
During the Great Depression, eleven-year-old Elsie and her friend Scoop try to make sense of the desperation and chaos that surrounds them. Most of the adults in their lives are too busy peeling potatoes or gambling their wages to be bothered with a couple of youngsters. Scoop plans on becoming a newspaper reporter so he helps Elsie as she sets out to find some answers to questions such as, where did her father go? Is he with the hoboes in Shantytown? Did he desert his family because he was ashamed that he could no longer support them? What is a dance marathon and how does it exploit poor people? When Elsie's uncle leaves the family to get a job picking cranberries and her mother leaves soon afterwards to visit a sick friend, there are even more unanswered questions. Elsie's Nan doesn't provide any information so Elsie and Scoop, armed with innocence and inquisitiveness, put themselves in potential danger as they explore their stark surroundings in an attempt to find the answers. This story is both intriguing and heartbreaking. It will help readers to better understand the hopelessness and misery that so many people suffered during the Great Depression, while giving them faith in the human spirit. Reviewer: Denise Daley
VOYA - Gina Bowling
Eleven-year-old Elsie lives with her mother, grandmother, and uncle in the garage behind her old house because of the financial strain the family is under during the Depression following her father's recent abandonment. Scoop is Elsie's best friend who desperately wants to be a newspaperman. Together, the two make plans to look for Elsie's father, as well as get the story on a local dance marathon. When, however, her mother and uncle mysteriously disappear, Elsie begins to question how to bring her family back together. A mysterious letter in her grandmother's apron and a possible sighting of her mother lead Elsie and Scoop to dig deeper for both stories, and eventually bring the promise of the family being brought back together. While the historical fiction aspect of this story is accurate and eye-opening to students who may be unfamiliar with the hardships many endured during the Depression, the story itself moves along rather slowly. Elsie and Scoop are both likable characters, but their likability cannot carry the entire plot. The concept of the dance marathon is interesting, however, and could provide a stimulus for students to do further research on the exploitation of the poor, not only during the Depression, but in today's modern culture. While not likely to be flying off the shelves, this book would be a nice companion piece to use during a unit on the Depression. Reviewer: Gina Bowling
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Set in Vancouver, BC, during the 1930s, this story of a family suffering through economic hardship will resonate with many of today's readers. Eleven-year-old Elsie's father left home shortly after losing his jewelry business to the bank. Elsie now lives in a garage with her mother, grandmother, and uncle; from there, she can see the house where they used to live. Things go from bad to worse when her mother and uncle leave, so Elsie feels it's up to her, along with her friend Scoop, an aspiring journalist, to bring the family back together. The exploitative and cruel dance marathons of that era play a role in the story, too, as does a clergyman with an active social conscience. Despite the grim plot elements, this is a story of hope, and it is smoothly written. The pace lags in spots, though. There's a truly arresting scene in which Elsie confronts a hobo who has taken her dog while she's visiting shantytown in search of her father, but at other times, readers may wish for more action. Still, this is well-researched historical fiction with a sympathetic main character, so larger collections will want to consider purchase.—Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL
Kirkus Reviews

Elsie doesn't know what's worse: living in the garage with your mom, grandmother and uncle behind the house that used to be home or having your father abandon you. Then her mother and uncle also leave, supposedly for jobs. Her miserable situation is all because of the Depression, which is affecting families everywhere. Her best friend, Scout, who is going to be a newspaperman, helps her search for her dad. But when Rev. Hampton takes them to see the dance marathon to show how exploitative it is, clues begin to add up. The Canadian setting and dialogue establish context for the terms hoboes, shantytowns and the phrase, "could you spare a dime." Though today's readers won't be familiar with the Depression, dance marathons or references to Bing Crosby, cribbage and Eaton's catalog, the search for family and relationships in tough times rings true. The evocative title refers to the coins thrown at a favored dance couple. Once past the unappealing cover, readers will find an absorbing and perceptive story. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554692804
  • Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/1/2010
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 660L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Lois Peterson wrote short stories and articles for adults for twenty years before turning to writing for kids. She was born in England and has lived in Iraq, France and the United States. She now lives in Surrey, British Columbia, where she writes, reads and teaches creative writing to adults, teens and children.

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Read an Excerpt

The men took one step toward her.

As Elsie took another step back, her foot caught on a chunk of stone. She felt her ankle twist as she stumbled to catch her balance.

The men stepped forward again. Bigger steps this time.

Elsie could smell smoke and sweat and a stink like rotten potatoes. In a sliver of light between the hoboes, she saw Dog Bob being hauled away by the man. But she felt frozen in place, with a chill creeping down her legs and up into her collar. The Reverend had been right. She shouldn't have come.

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