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Release Date: September, 2009
Publisher: GREAT SOURCE
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
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Posted by Rosemary on 8/5/2005
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.
A great book! Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse.
Posted by Anonymous on 12/24/2005
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.
Posted by maddie on 8/6/2005
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.
Posted by Anonymous on 10/29/2001
Out Of the Dust
By, Karen Hesse
Review by, Samantha
As the dust gets thicker Billy Jo tells the story of the life in Oklahoma, While the time of the dust bowl. The genre of OUT OF THE DUST is realistic fiction, made to sound very real by Karen Hesse. Billy Jo her mother and her father all live in a small shack on a farm. Because of the dust the crops were not growing well, they had also not had a heavy rain in over a year. Billy Jo loved the piano and she always played it but after a terrible accident that left her hands and her mother totally burned up and sore she thought that she could never play again.
I think that this is a good book for young adults because they might be able to connect in some ways. I personally loved the book and had a really hard time putting it down. I think the reason I liked it so much was that it was something that could really happen. I also liked this book a lot because she made you feel like you were right there watching the story. The Plot of the book was announced really well and the characters descriptions were made very clear and easy to understand.
The plot of this book is very good. Because they start out by telling us were the book takes place and who the characters in the story are. They made the book very understandable and readable. The story was telling us about what a 14-year old Girls named Billy JO's life in the years of a drought in Oklahoma. She was saying her parents did not really want her because they wanted a son. While towards the middle of the book the mother of Billy Jo gets pregnant and is going to have a baby boy. But then an accident burns her whole body while she is pregnant.
The characters in the book are very descriptive. The main character in the book Billy Jo is described as a tall not so pretty girl with dirty blonde hair. Very dirty skin from the water she bathes in. The mother is tall skinny and when she is pregnant she is described as a normal women only weighing in at 110lbs. The father has some muscles but not many mostly he is skin and bones with also very dirty skin. The other people in the book don't really have descriptions except for one boy not giving a name, he is decried as a short boy with freckles and blonde hair they say he has blue eyes and kind of a pudgy face.
This book is about A girl in Oklahoma that is having a hard time living. The people that live there are desperately wanting rain that they have not had for over three years. It is so hard to live because the farms will not grow and the food and water is saturated in dust.
I think I personally connected with this book when Billy JO's mother passed away because just last year my father passed away. In addition, when her father got a girlfriend and how she did not like her at first, I was not comfortable with my stepfather at first either. Therefore, I kind of know what Billy JO fells like.
I would recommend this book to any young adult or adult that like reading realistic fiction. If you would like to know how the dust ends up and how Billy JO's mom goes read this book and be surprised.
Posted by Krista on 8/18/2000
"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.