by Hamilton, Virginia. (Aladdin Books, 1989 ISBN 0-689-71328-2) Novel. 208 pages. Grades 4+.
This book was reviewed by Carol Otis Hurst in Teaching K-8 Magazine.
In October of 1938, on their farm homestead in small town Ohio, an African American family is caught up in the great fear generated by the Orson Welles "The Martians Have Landed" broadcast. On the Sunday of the broadcast, Willie Bea's family has gathered for dinner at Grand's house. Many of the relatives of the large extended family live nearby and, during these tough financial times, the family relies on each other for support. Aunt Leah is the only one who is financially secure. She lives far away but drives to the gathering with her equally glamorous escort. It is she who hears part of the broadcast on her way home and, without hearing the frequent admonitions that this is a radio drama, not a newscast, she returns to spread the alarm to the others.
Then the hysteria takes over. Willie Bea dashes across the fields on stilts to warn the others and mistakes a harvesting machine for the space ship. Leah faints. Jason is convinced that there's been a mistake. Martians can't have landed. It must be Germans who have invaded.
Although the broadcast which, of course, did occur and did cause hysteria at the time, is the focus of the book, there is much other historical information here. The lives of rural families during the Great Depression is personalized through Willie Bea's family. The culture of the time, particularly the radio programs that entertained those generations are mentioned and a few are discussed by the characters. The book could lead to a fuller investigation of the time period. The characterization in Willie Bea and the Time the Martians Landed is right on, the action is hilarious and the misunderstandings, understandable.
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