The Amazing Thinking Machine by Dennis Haseley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Patrick and Roy's father left home a while ago to find work somewhere. It's the middle of the Depression, and jobs are scarce. The boys' mom tries to keep them fed and hold things together at home, but when they figure out she's been accepting charity baskets of food, they balk at eating the donated meals. Then Roy gets the bright idea to build an "amazing thinking machine" in their backyard and charge local kids a fee (food or a penny) to come and ask it questions.
I think this book would be best read with your children--maybe a chapter a night at bedtime--so you could answer questions about the Depression and the many unpleasant and prejudiced slang terms for the "bums" hanging about in vacant lots. (The boys use these terms frequently but come to see that ANYONE could end up like the unkempt strangers begging for food.)
For readers' advisors: character and setting doorways, with story secondary.
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