Wish Upon a Crawdad
Children’s book set amid rural electrification
A new children’s book is shining a light on a pivotal period in American history: when rural residents banded together to bring electricity to their homes and farms following the Great Depression.
The story’s rural electrification backdrop and fictional Oregon setting are no coincidence. Author Curtis W. Condon grew up in the Beaver State and, for nearly three decades, was a writer and editor at Ruralite, a statewide magazine for electric co-op members in the West — much like Carolina Country magazine is to those in North Carolina.
After retiring in 2017, Condon finally had time to pursue his dream of writing a children’s book, and “Wish Upon a Crawdad” is the result. The fictional tale for middle schoolers was released in May 2022 and follows the exploits of 12-year-old Ruby, who has a jarful of coins, a theory about crawdads and secret ambitions.
“The story takes place just as her family is about to get electricity for the first time, thanks to the electric cooperative recently formed by her parents and other families in the rural valley where they live,” Condon said. “She had wished for electricity her whole life, but now that it is on its way, she has her sights set on another wish. A very special wish.”
The book is dedicated to Condon’s mother, whose stories helped to shape the account.
“There are lots of bits and pieces that come from Mom, in one way or another,” he said.
Condon says the story of rural electrification has largely been ignored in literature. He wanted to change that.
“There’s only one other children’s book of this kind — for middle-grade readers — that I know of that’s ever been published with rural electrification at its core, and that was published more than 50 years ago,” he says. “Electric co-ops have a great story to tell … one that deserves to be told and retold. I’m glad I have to opportunity to do that in this book.”
About the AuthorPenn Lines magazine staff contributed to this article.
Another good read