This was the decade of the Great Depression.  Following the stock market crash on October 29, 1929, many people were out of work.  Most people didn’t have a lot of money to spend, but they still looked for ways to entertain themselves.  Radio was a common form of entertainment, and people listened to radio plays, quiz shows, music, and the latest news and sports for free in their own homes.  Swing music was popular, and young people especially liked to go to dance halls.

People also liked to go to the movies, which were no longer silent ones.  The1930s were part of the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Comedies were popular and helped to cheer people up during the hard times.  There were also a lot of musicals and gangster films.  Child stars, notably Shirley Temple, became popular.  Most of these movies were still black-and-white, but color film was used for a few major films by the end of the decade, particularly The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind.  Walt Disney created his first full-length animated movie in 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

In children’s literature, series books were popular, and the Stratemeyer Syndicate (which already produced many series) began publishing the Nancy Drew series.  It was very successful and became the original standard for the “girl detective” mystery genre.  Books in the series were produced for decades after, although the original Nancy Drew series did not have as many books as the Judy Bolton series, which also emerged in the 1930s, written by a single author, not a syndicate.  Judy Bolton was not quite as popular as Nancy Drew, which is why some modern readers haven’t heard of it.  Although some books in the series are rare collectors’ items, it still has a following in modern times, and some people believe that Judy Bolton is really more realistic than Nancy Drew and a better role model for girls.

The Great Depression ended when the United States joined the war effort in World War II.

For more about 1930s culture:

Retrowaste 1930s

The People History 1930s

Wikipedia — 1930s

Lists of 1930s children’s books:

Classic Children’s Books By The Decade: 1930s

Goodreads — Best Children’s Books of the 1930s

Fiction Books

General Fiction







Historical Fiction


Susan is a little girl during the 1800s, and she and her family make the journey from Kentucky to Indiana in a covered wagon.  She shares her adventures with her beloved doll, Abigail. By Portia Howe Sperry and Lois Donaldson.

Picture Books


Fiction Series

Betsy and Eddie Books

The everyday adventures of a group of neighborhood children. By Carolyn Haywood. 1939-1986.

Hardy Boys Mysteries

Two brothers, Frank and Joe Hardy, solve mysteries in their East Coast town of Bayport and around the world.  By Franklin W. Dixon, A Stratemeyer Syndicate series.  1927-Present.

Nancy Drew Mysteries

Nancy Drew encounters and solves mysteries with her friends in her hometown of River Heights and around the world.  By Carolyn Keene, A Stratemeyer Syndicate series.  1930-Present.

Ruth Fielding Series

An orphan girl in the early 20th century grows up to become the owner of her own film company in Hollywood.  Along the way, she solves mysteries with her friends at school, on vacation, and later, on filming locations, and helps the war effort during World War I.  A Stratemeyer Syndicate series. 1913-1934.