Fighting for the Forest: How FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps Helped Save America by P. O’Connell Pearson

My grandfather escaped a life with no opportunities in Depression-era Los Angeles by joining up with the Civilian Conservation Corp. After graduating from high school and having two siblings and no money for college, he saw this as the best way for him to provide for his family. He was sent to King Canyon and Sequoia Nat Parks to build facilities and infrastructure. The CCC are responsible for roads, trails, and bridges in National Parks all over the United States. In the course of my grandfather’s time in the CCC he acquired many marketable skills and after his tenure was able to secure a job in the local county’s surveyor office. (He met my grandmother in town and eventually I came along. Huge win for the CCC!)

In the early 80s I went to several CCC reunions with my grandparents in Sequoia Nat Park. Veterans of the Corp traded stories and I got to meet many of my grandfather’s friends from that period of his life. We looked at pictures and toured the park’s various CCC sites. One of my favorite pictures of my grandfather and I is of the two of us sitting at a picnic table listening to the speakers at one of the those reunions.

I chose to read Fighting for the Forest because of my connection to the CCC. My history classes in high school and college named the CCC as one of the “alphabet programs” in the New Deal, but I wanted to read a bit more about it. I also was thinking about my own children and when they get to the age where they could learn a bit about their great-grandfather. I believe this is the perfect text to give a young person and one day my children wanting to learn about the Corp… Isn’t that the highest praise a person can give to a book?

Pearson is a very organized writer. She starts by defining the time period of The Depression and the major players, most notably Roosevelt and his cabinet. Then the boots hit the ground and she branches off to focus on the young men who spent their time building Shenandoah National Park, the first of the CCC projects.

Included in the chapters are short focused definitions of various terms important to the time period and the content of the books. For example, “What is a Labor Union?” or “What was The Dust Bowl?” Pearson also looks at the inclusion of African-Americans and other minorities in the CCC and the importance of Frances Perkins as one of its guiding administrators. Filled with key pictures and well-researched quotes from the participants, Fight for the Forest is a worthy addition to any middle-grade library. And one I’ll be getting for my children.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, and the author for an advanced copy for review.

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