- Paperback: 227 pages
- Publisher: Scholastic (January 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0590371258
- ISBN-13: 978-0590371254
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 7.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 990 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Out of the Dust Paperback – January 1, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
In a starred review of the 1998 Newbery Medal winner, set during the Depression, PW said, "This intimate novel, written in stanza form, poetically conveys the heat, dust and wind of Oklahoma. With each meticulously arranged entry Hesse paints a vivid picture of her heroine's emotions." Ages 11-13.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Winner of the Newbery Medal
Winner of the Scott O'Dell Award
An ALA Notable Children's Book
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Booklist Editors' Choice
A Book Links “Lasting Connection”
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing selection
* "Hesse's spare prose adroitly traces Billie Jo's journey in and out of darkness.… With each meticulously arranged entry she paints a vivid picture of Billie Jo's emotions, ranging from desolation…. to longing… to hope." -- Publishers Weekly, starred review
* "Hesse uses free-verse poems to advance the plot, allowing the narrator to speak for herself much more eloquently than would be possible in standard prose. The author's astute and careful descriptions of life during the dust storms of the 1930s are grounded in harsh reality, yet are decidedly poetic… Hesse's ever growing skill as a writer willing to take chances with her form shines through superbly…" -- School Library Journal, starred review
* "The story is bleak, but Hesse's writing transcends the gloom and transforms it into a powerfully compelling tale of a girl with enormous strength, courage and love. The entire novel is written in very readable blank verse, a superb choice for bringing out the exquisite agony and delight to be found in such a difficult period lived by such a vibrant character." Booklist, starred review
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Billie Jo’s love and talent for playing the piano carries her through the darkest of times, until a tragic accident involving herself and her mother disables her from playing. Navigating a now strained relationship with her father without the piano to comfort her, Billie Jo struggles to find her place in a life that seems too hard to manage. When home seems like the darkest and most hopeless place to be, Billie Jo sets out in search of another life, but to her own surprise she finds that maybe home is where she was always meant to be.
Written as a series of poems from Billie Jo’s perspective, author Karen Hesse intimately connects readers to the hardships of life living in the Dust Bowl and makes us yearn for rain and new beginnings just as Billie Jo does. Hesse’s use of verse drives this novel with descriptive details and real emotion, successfully investing readers in the book’s themes of hardship and perseverance. Hesse’s book serves as a historical lesson about the reality of life for a group of Americans living during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, and provides readers with a real lesson that running away from problems is never the way to fix them.
"Yes," she replied "and you are going to love it."
She was right.
I read the book through in a couple of hours that night, then went back and read it again, slowly.
The book is written in free verse, which is so appropriate as 14-year-old Billie Jo talks about the free-floating sand and dust on her family's dirt-scratching Oklahoma wheat farm during the 1930s dust bowl.
The youngster stoically copes with one loss after another and finds no one to confide in. Billie Jo's mother is absorbed in her long-desired pregnancy, and Billie Jo's silent father seems to think only of the soil, growing plants and digging a hole to retain water.
The piano in the living room of their tiny house becomes a focal point, demonstrating that some beauty was able to peek through those dismal dust-filled days. Billie Jo learns to play the musical instrument from her talented mother, and makes a name for herself at school. The three are looking forward to the baby's arrival, when another disaster strikes.
While many of their neighbors begin heading west as the fierce dust storms force them out, Billie Jo's father says they have lived through hard times before and they are staying put no matter what. Her mother accidentally splashes a pail of kerosene while making tea and runs screaming out the door from the resulting flames. Billie Jo grabs the pail and throws it out the door --- just as her mother rushes back inside. Altho Billie Jo tries to beat out the flames with her hands, it is a futile effort. Her mother is fatally wounded and a few days later the long awaited baby is stillborn, adding to Billie Jo's grief. Also Billie Jo's hands are so burned and scarred she can no longer play the piano.
Billie Jo is so overcome with guilt, shame, and grief she finally runs away only to discover how much she needs her father and the farm. The book ends on a happy note with her father able to tell her that he loves her, a friendly neighbor begins bringing them food and makes her father smile again.
The big surprise for me was learning the author was not writing her own biography, because she made it so believable. Karen Hesse lived in Baltimore and only drove through the Great Plains area. Then she began researching the dust bowl years and many of the stories in this book are taken directly from newspaper items of the day. I have recommended this book to everyone I know.