“Someplace to Call Home” by Sandra Dallas
c.2019, Sleeping Bear Press $15.95 / $20.95 Canada 232 pages
There’s dust and dirt everywhere.
Yeah, it’s been awhile since your room’s been cleaned and everything has to be wiped down. You might as well make the bed, too, and vacuum while you’re at it. As you’ll see in the new book “Someplace to Call Home” by Sandra Dallas, at least you have a bedroom.
On the afternoon that the old Model T died on the side of a Kansas road, twelve-year-old Hallie Turner jumped out of the car and shook her dress. There was no sense in keeping the Oklahoma dust on it; there’d be dust at the next place, and the next. Dust was what got her and her brothers to Kansas the first place.
Two years ago, after everything had dried up, their father left the farm and family to look for work. Then Hallie’s little sister died of dust-pneumonia and her mother passed, too; Hallie and her sixteen-year-old brother, Tom, tried to run the farm themselves, but the crops failed and they couldn’t pay the mortgage. Soon, they did what many other people were doing: they packed up and headed for California.
With the car broke down, Hallie hoped nobody would care if they set up a tent beneath some trees near a creek. She knew her little brother would like that. Benny was different – with a round face and stubby fingers, he was not like other six-year-olds – but Hallie and Tom loved him fiercely.
It was Benny that Hallie thought of first when a stranger came around the next morning. He said his name was Swede Carlson and it was his land, and he was watching Benny when he told Hallie and Tom they could stay. He even had work for Tom, if Tom wanted it.
Later, he offered the children the use of his old cabin, which wasn’t much. It was just one room with no electricity and a fireplace for cooking but it was a roof over their heads and it was safe. The Turner children hoped to stay as long as they could.
They really didn’t have much choice…
From its very beginning, “Someplace to Call Home” is a grabber.
Within the first few pages, young readers learn all they need to know about the Turner children, including that they might’ve been peers. This makes Hallie, on whom the story focuses, into someone relatable; it helps that she’s likable, too.
Author Sandra Dallas tells her Dust Bowl-era tale with historic detail, subtly letting kids know that the story is based in realism and isn’t far-fetched. For an adult, it may even feel familiar: this book is reminiscent of the old Boxcar Children series, in that the orphaned characters are resourceful and independent because they have to be. For a kid, the story’s a gentle adventure and a chance to imagine “what if?”
That’s a perfect premise for a reader who’s 9 or older and it’s not bad if you’re four times that. “Someplace to Call Home” is good, and it’d be a dirty shame to miss it.