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Out Of The Dust (Newbery Medal Book) Hardcover – October 1, 1997

4.2 out of 5 stars 1,070 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Like the Oklahoma dust bowl from which she came, 14-year-old narrator Billie Jo writes in sparse, free-floating verse. In this compelling, immediate journal, Billie Jo reveals the grim domestic realities of living during the years of constant dust storms: That hopes--like the crops--blow away in the night like skittering tumbleweeds. That trucks, tractors, even Billie Jo's beloved piano, can suddenly be buried beneath drifts of dust. Perhaps swallowing all that grit is what gives Billie Jo--our strong, endearing, rough-cut heroine--the stoic courage to face the death of her mother after a hideous accident that also leaves her piano-playing hands in pain and permanently scarred.

Meanwhile, Billie Jo's silent, windblown father is literally decaying with grief and skin cancer before her very eyes. When she decides to flee the lingering ghosts and dust of her homestead and jump a train west, she discovers a simple but profound truth about herself and her plight. There are no tight, sentimental endings here--just a steady ember of hope that brightens Karen Hesse's exquisitely written and mournful tale. Hesse won the 1998 Newbery Award for this elegantly crafted, gut-wrenching novel, and her fans won't want to miss The Music of Dolphins or Letters from Rifka. (Ages 9 and older) --Gail Hudson

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. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Newbery Medal Book
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; 1st ed edition (October 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0590360809
  • ISBN-13: 978-0590360807
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,070 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

A Kid's Review on May 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
I am a middle school student and I must admit that I loved this book. I loved it a lot because it was in a kid's perspective, not an adult's. I never actually heard of "The Dust Bowl" until this book. Every other book on the Dust Bowl that I came across was in an ADULTS point of view. I had to read "Out of the Dust" for school and I won't lie, i thought that would be just another boring/bad book like always. But it wasn't, i really liked it.. It seemed so real, and I could actually understand what Billie Jo was going through even thought i've never been in something so tragic. I had to give this book the review it disurved. The form it was in was so unique, nothing like any other. It was in a poem form but at the same time like a diary entry. I thought it was really stupied and pointless, but it actually helped me get what was going on in some strange way. I honesty do give this book 5 stars, mayjor thumbs up :)
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Format: Paperback
"Out of the Dust," written as a series of spare free-verse poems from the viewpoint of a Texas teenager during the 1930s, won the Newbery Award for 1998. My own reading of the book convinced me that the award was well-deserved.
Billie Jo's poems span a period of years filled with difficult experiences: poverty, unemployment, her mother's death in an accident, her own maiming in the same accident, her trouble communicating with her father. Her life is certainly not easy, her path almost never smooth. Yet, the poems radiate such a hope, even a joy at times, that the book never becomes depressing.
I think some of the images of this book will stick with me for a long time -- the family chewing their dust-laden milk, her mother's tent of pain, her father's smile at the dance, Billie Jo's first concert after recovering from her burns. Billie Jo is a survivor whose story is both thought-provoking and uplifting.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book and I would encourage anyone of any age to read it. It's about a girl named Billy Joe who plays piano and lives with her family during the "Dust Bowl". The dust is flying everywhere, the wheat won't grow, and they are living in a run down farm house. The only nice thing Billy Joe and her mom have is the piano. When Billy Joe is at the piano there is no dust, it's just her and the keys. The only problem is that she plays a very different tune then her mom. Her mom does not like that style of music and sometimes doesn't let her perform. That's okay to Billy Joe though, because she loves her mom more than anything else.

Billy Joe's dad is a quiet guy that is just trying to grow some wheat. But, because of the dust no wheat will grow. Then, to make matters worse, a horrible accident happens. Her dad had left a bucket of kerosene on the stove, which her mom mistook for water. When she begins making coffee with it the pot bursts into flames. Billy Joe's mom quickly runs out of the house screaming for help. Billy Joe throws the kerosene out of the back door and it lands directly onto her mom. This was a complete accident which results in both Billy Joe and her mom being badly burnt. It is a very sad story, but a really good book. I also like how the words are written like a poem. Every one should read this book!

I am an 11 year old boy that plays the guitar, piano and baseball, and I love to draw. I would also recommend The Giver, Number the Stars, and The Hatchet.
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Format: Hardcover
Reading an award-winner is tricky business. This book won the Newbery Medal in 1998. I have read nearly all of the Newbery winners and my rule of thumb for these (unlike some other, less worthy prizes) is that you can expect to read a very good book. This one is no exception. Of course, not even Newbery winners are all created equal. Some are truly great and some are kind of average. This one falls in the middle of this range--let's call it the "not quite truly great" category.
Let me say first off that I personally found this to be a wonderful book. I think it is interesting and moving. Though not generally a fan of the free verse/prose poem style Hesse uses in this "novel," I found that her words generated an emotional response that straight prose might have lessened. I was also surprised by how detailed this world became for me while reading what is a very sparse book. This shows real talent and stylistic strength.
On the other hand, though I believe strongly that the best books for children and young adults are equally readable by adults, sometimes an author shoots a little high for the primary readership. Hesse's book is wonderful for adults but a little difficult for younger readers. I was able to let myself be carried away by the beauty of this book because I already have a strong sense about the Depression, life on a farm, the Dust Bowl. A child, however, will struggle with this book because, though strong on feeling, it's short on background.
This is not to say that this book is without merit even for younger readers. Its style and emotion are worth a read for anyone, particularly since it is short enough to be read in very little time. In combination with a more historically oriented book or other background on the Depression, a young reader could get even more from this book. Without this, though, many younger readers will struggle with this book.
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