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The bread winner
Publication Information:
Boston, Mass. : Houghton Mifflin, c1990.
Physical Description:
138 p.
Reading Level:
650 L Lexile
When both her parents are unable to find work and pay the bills during the Great Depression, resourceful Sarah Ann Puckett saves the family from the poorhouse by selling her prizewinning homemade bread.


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When Sarah's family lose their farm and are forced to move to Shantytown at the height of the Great Depression, Sarah saves them from starvation and complete despair by selling her prize-winning bread.

Author Notes

Arvella Whitmore grew up in Great Bend, Kansas. She currently resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she is a full-time writer.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Pleasant if not entirely persuasive, this novel by the author of You're a Real Hero, Amanda features a heroine who is pluckiness personified. When the family farm is lost during the Depression, Sarah is horrified by the ramshackle hut she and her parents move to and worries when neither lands a new job. But while the adults buckle under the strain, Sarah rallies: before long, she has started a bread business, baking loaves and selling them to appreciative neighbors, eventually enlisting the aid of both parents and, ever resourceful, commandeering a storefront in the center of town. No sissy she, Sarah also fights back against the local bullies and rescues the store's cashbox from a thieving hobo. However, she is a little too good to be true (for example, she voluntarily takes a math test on her first day in a new school because it looks ``easy and fun to do''). The setbacks Whitmore throws in are almost formulaic, and Sarah's enthusiasm for baking does not fully emerge. On the other hand, Sarah's reactions to her parents' despair are both convincing and moving, and it's impossible not to admire her never-say-die attitude. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

Sarah's parents are unable to find work during the Depression, so she decides to help out by baking and selling her prize-winning bread, and what starts as a small project becomes a successful family enterprise. The appealing heroine makes this story enjoyable despite the too-good-to-be-true ending. From HORN BOOK 1990, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Gr. 4-6. As with her last book, You're a Real Hero, Amanda [BKL D 15 85], Whitmore uses a Depression-era setting to frame her story. Twelve-year-old Sarah Puckett thinks she might like life in town, though the reason her family is leaving the country is sad--the Pucketts have been forced to sell their farm. Life is no easier in the city, however. They are stuck in Shantytown, and Sarah must fight off the local toughs, who make fun of her for being smart. When her father decides to ride the rails because he is unable to find work, Sarah feels as if her world were falling apart; but fortunately, Sarah is a plucky, Horatio Alger-type heroine. A prize-winning bread baker, she decides to use her talent to get the family out of their dire straits. Whitmore's story is overwritten, and its upbeat ending (Dad comes home and joins the business, and it is so successful they start a bakery shop) seems like an episode of "The Waltons." Still, the book--with its good pacing and heartfelt emotion--should capture the attention of young readers, who probably won't notice the formulaic threads. And they'll learn something about the Depression. ~--Ilene Cooper

School Library Journal Review

The Depression and its people come alive in this touching and well-crafted novel. Sarah Ann Puckett thinks her father is joking when, having lost their farm during the Depression, he pulls up to a shabby shack and announces that it is to be their new home. In her new neighborhood and school, Sarah becomes a target for bullies until she learns to fight for her rights and begins to adjust; unfortunately, her father isn't as quick to adapt to his new circumstances. Unable to find work and believing he is a burden to his family, he leaves home to ride the rails, hoping to find employment elsewhere. Sarah's mother takes in laundry but proves unable to support herself and her daughter, and Sarah's breadmaking skills save the day. When her father returns home at last, a thriving bakery is waiting for him. Although it's hard to believe that a child could so determinedly and creatively turn poverty around, the Depression fostered many such scenarios, and they are warming to read. But even more rewarding here is the description of the Depression--the devastating changes in many peoples' lives, how bravely they acted, how generous people could be even in poverty, and how serious life was, even for children. --Susan F. Marcus, Pollard Middle School, Needham, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

It's 1932, the depths of the Depression; 12-year-old Sarah's parents have lost their midwestern farm and are living in a shack in a small nearby town. Sarah's initial excitement about the move evaporates as reality and neighborhood toughs destroy her naive fantasies about town living. Meanwhile, neither parent can find work; Sarah's father leaves to search elsewhere; and the situation is critical until Sarah discovers that she can sell her prize-winning bread. With indomitable courage, she overcomes all obstacles (bullies, a thief, a skeptical landlord), and finally--returning from his fruitless trip--her father joins Sarah and her mother in their successful venture. Despite the stilted dialogue, oversimplification, lack of development, and some unlikely events, Sarah is a strong female protagonist and the well-structured story fast paced, while Whitmore's evocation of the period allows readers to share the desperation of hard-working, decent people. An acceptable purchase, useful for an integrated curriculum. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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