Tag Archives: Great Depression

1931: Scheherazade at the Library of Pergamum (Visual Novel)

By Black Chicken Studios

My rating: 4 of 5

1930, New York City: Prohibition is in effect, and the Great Depression is making itself known across the country, but for wealthy heiress Scheherazade Keating (Sadie to her friends), other things are much more immediately important. Having just graduated valedictorian of her high school class, Sadie is ready to make her mark, embarking on a whirlwind college degree in archaeology that includes on-site work at a variety of digs around the world. Incidentally, she’s following in the footsteps of her parents, a pair of famous (now missing) archaeologists . . . . She’s also following a trail of clues that may (she hopes) lead to more information about what’s happened to her parents. And she’s not afraid to break a few rules of society if that’s what it takes.

How to describe Scheherazade . . . it’s honestly a pretty unique experience, although there are similarities to a lot of other stories and games in certain aspects. It definitely plays like a visual novel–nice backgrounds, music, character pics, text describing what’s happening, and choices for the player to make that influence how the story progresses. You could, I suppose, even compare it to an otome visual novel in some senses; there are certainly several romance paths that can be pursued, if desired. But it’s entirely possible to play with purely platonic relationships as well. I actually loved how much good friendships were a part of the story. Mechanically, the game is also almost a princess-maker sort of game in that you have to choose how to spend your time, different choices build different skills, and your skills influence how certain challenges resolve. There’s actually a good bit of challenge to the game mechanics if you really want to play to meet certain goals; however, there’s also an easy mode that basically lets you focus on the story. And Sadie’s story is pretty interesting in a pulp novel sort of way. She’s a very strong character, and an amusing one to read–even if her ridiculous wealth tends to make you forget how bad life is in the world at large for a lot of people. But then, she’s more ridiculous than even her wealth, getting caught up in chases, digging in the dirt, getting into arguments, and suchlike. And there are actually a lot of interactions with people of a variety of stations in life–lots of interesting relationships to build. On the whole, I really enjoyed playing Scheherazade and found it to be an interesting slice of an era as well as an exciting romp around the world and a fun exposition of a fascinating character.

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Wingwalker

wingwalkerAuthor: Rosemary Wells

Illustrator: Brian Selznick

My rating: 4 of 5

Reuben and his parents live safe, ordinary lives in a safe, ordinary town where watching a trick-performing airplane is about the most exciting thing to come to town in ages. However, when the dust starts rolling in, his comfortable world begins to crumble, leaving his family as destitute as the rest of their slowing eroding town. Gambling everything on an advertised job in an out-of-state newspaper, the family joins a traveling carnival, and Reuben’s world alters expansively as he watches his dad tap-dance on a flying plane’s wing, sees his mother worrying but persevering, and meets the variety of individuals also working for the carnival.

I have to admit, I originally picked up this book simply because I love the illustrator–and I wasn’t disappointed. The pictures are as beautiful and evocative as I’ve come to expect from Selznick’s work; however, while reading, I’ve fallen in love with Rosemary Well’s work as well. The story is told with the wide-eyed candor of a young boy. It’s quite compelling to read. I love that the author took a story about the Depression and crafted it into a story that’s more about facing our fears and learning about the people around us than it is about all the bad things that can happen in life. All in all, Wingwalker is a forthright story that I would recommend, particularly as an introduction to the Depression era for younger readers.

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Al Capone Shines My Shoes

al capone shines my shoesAuthor: Gennifer Choldenko

Sequel to: Al Capone Does My Shirts

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Alcatraz Island, 1935: Al Capone has done Moose Flanagan the favor of getting Moose’s autistic sister, Natalie, into a special school. Now it’s time for Moose to return the favor. This story is a great blend of the unusual–living in the closely-knit community of Alcatraz in the midst of the Depression–with the everyday–balancing friendships and family, making hard choices, and just enjoying a game of baseball. Whatever the situation, Choldenko’s presentation of Moose is spot-on 12-year-old boy. Al Capone Shines My Shoes is light and fun, but also includes adventure and some serious issues. It is a well-balanced and enjoyable read that I would recommend to anyone, but particularly to younger readers looking for a fun way to learn some history.

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