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Out Of The Dust
Stock image - cover art may vary
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0590371258
ISBN-13: 9780590371254
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
Release Date: January, 1999
Length: 240 Pages
Weight: 7.2 ounces
Dimensions: 7.5 X 5.2 X 0.7 inches
Language: English

Out Of The Dust

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(Avg. 4.8)
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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 tumblewe...
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Customer Reviews

  A great book! Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse.

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.
  Keeping her spirit

"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.


Imagine you're growing up in 1930's America during the Depression. You live in dusty Oklahoma, where rain is a rare sight and dust storms are frequent. Suddenly, a horrible accident occurs which causes your mother and her expecting baby to die, and leaving your hands crippled. The only thing that could have helped you get through this disaster would be playing the piano, but with your crippled hands it is nearly impossible.

This is the situation of 14 year old Billie Jo Kelby, who is forced to live on a farm with her father, but with all the dust storms and little rain they get growing wheat is impossible. Her father refuses to talk about the accident, leaving Billie Jo scared and confused about what to do.

Out of the Dust is written in free-verse poetry from Billie Jo's viewpoint, making it an interesting read. I'd reccommend this book to people over the age of ten, because the author gave a very detailed explination of the accident that killed Billie Jo's mother and baby brother and may give younger children nightmares. Although it is an easy read, it teaches a very important life lesson and should be read by all.
  Dust Bowl Blues

Dust storms predominate in the life of Billy Jo, the fourteen-year-old narrator of Out of the Dust. The economic hardship that Billy Jo's family faces in Oklahoma during the Depression comes out in the beautiful free verse that Billy Jo writes in her journal. As her father stubbornly clings to his belief that "it's sure to rain soon/wheat's sure to grow", her mother grows heavier with child, and their economic woes grow more dismal. Billy Jo's consolation in the face of the desolation is the wonderful dexterity of her fingers on her mother's piano. Then, a horrible accident destroys her family, estranges Billy Jo from her father, and robs her of her piano playing skills. Life becomes unbearable and Billy Jo runs away from home, but a chance meeting makes her realize where her heart lies. The story is bleak as the forces of nature are powerful and the freak accident is terrible but Billy Jo's courageous spirit and the humor in her observations, "I hope we get bonus points/ for testing in a dust storm" prevent it from degenerating into pessimism. The author's technique of using short, economical lines of poetry reflects the frugal times and also creates the historical background to the story in a simple and uncomplicated manner. Out of the Dust is harsh in its realism, but it leaves the reader with a feeling of hope.

  thumbs up

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 :)