Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The Great Depression has driven the once prosperous Larkin family out of northern Texas. For the last five years, its members have traveled constantly, “wanderers in search of a livelihood.” Through the ten chapters of Blue Willow and the accompanying black-and-white drawings, the story of this stalwart family unfolds.

It begins on a sweltering summer day with the Larkins moving into an abandoned shack. Jim Larkin goes immediately to his job digging up irrigation ditches, while Clara and Janey Larkin settle in. Soon, another girl about Janey’s age appears, carrying a baby—Lupe Romero and her sister Betty. Janey is envious that the Romeros have lived in their house for more than a year. Her father always says that they can only stay in a spot “as long as we can.” Searching for something to impress Lupe, Janey shows her a blue willow plate and tells her the legend of the Chinese lovers who miraculously change into doves and escape from the girl’s angry father. Lupe does not share Janey’s enthusiasm for the plate, but this day starts a close friendship between the girls and their families.

The Larkins’ tenuous peace is overshadowed by the presence of Bounce Reyburn, who demands five dollars rent for the shack in the name of Nils Anderson, the owner of the ranch. This is money the family can ill afford to spend, but Mr. Larkin pays, demanding a receipt. When work dwindles, the family decides to relax at the nearby...

(The entire section is 523 words.)