Angels In The Dust



A young girl growing up in the heart of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s witnesses the people of her community becoming true friends, joining together like angels to help life go on. Beautiful pastel artwork illustrates this heartwarming tale based on a true story.



Roger Essley
A freelance illustrator for twenty years, Roger Essley has illustrated five picture books and is the author/illustrator of the picture book Reunion. His artwork can be found in books, magazines, and in the collection of a number of museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He teaches classroom workshops and residencies and presents at national and regional conferences.



Paperback, 32 pages
Published January 1st 1997 by Troll Communications
ISBN 0816738068 (ISBN13: 9780816738069)
GoodReads link



1998 Teachers’ Choice Award

1998 Oklahoma Book Award finalist



Teacher review on-line:

This is a wonderfully written book. The story is touching. The language is expressive and descriptive. The illustrations are vivid and add much to the story. This was a great book to read aloud. It can give students a taste of life in a different time and place. Wonderful!


From Publishers Weekly:

A girl faces down adversity in the heart of the ’30s Dust Bowl; according to PW, pastels of the valiant heroine “reinforce the text’s consciously inspirational message.” Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.


From School Library Journal:

Dark brown endpapers and the colors of earth and dust seem to seep out of the full-page illustrations as Great-grandma Annie tells of growing up in the 1930s in Oklahoma. As Annie and her sister watch, dirt fills the air, covers the fields, and has to be battled indoors and out. “Dust  pneumonia” brings death to their mother and Annie takes over the housekeeping. She finds a way to water her vegetable garden despite the drought and shares the produce with struggling neighbors. A fire destroys their house and leaves them without resources. They survive, Annie remembers, by hard work, by the love between father and daughters, and by the good will of the neighbors they had helped.

“Nothing’s so bad that it isn’t good for something,” Annie’s mother once said, and her gentle and hopeful spirit lives through her children. This well-told tale of the hard times and grinding poverty of the dust bowl is good reading for any study of the Depression era or of America’s past. The realistic paintings dramatically illustrate the events described.

Pair this with books like Judith Hendershot’s In Coal Country (Knopf, 1987) or Faith Ringgold’s Tar Beach (Crown, 1991) to show how families can strengthen their ties to one another and find courage in troubled economic times.  Shirley Wilton, Ocean County College, Toms River, NJ


From Kirkus Reviews:

Raven’s first book for children explores life in the American Dust Bowl of the 1930s as “Great-grandma Annie” shares her memories of childhood. Annie lived on an Oklahoma wheat farm, “where the land reaches out straight as a handshake.” When the dust storms begin, forcing dirt through the boards and into the family’s small house, Annie helps her sister, Bessie, write her name in the dust. That act makes Mama think that “nothing’s so bad that it isn’t good for something” –the theme of the book.

After Mama dies of dust pneumonia, Annie assumes adult responsibilities: keeping house; soothing Bessie’s fears with tales of how Mama, an angel, keeps watch over them; and growing a garden with the aid of an inspired tin-can water pipe. When their dried-to-tinder house burns to the ground, neighbors–also hard- pressed–pledge small sums to help the family get on their feet. An author’s note fills in the historical facts, while Essley’s full-bleed paintings beautifully capture the reality of a hard- but-hopeful life in a world gone to wind-blown grit. Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP