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Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
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Out of the Dust

by Karen Hesse

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Read my review of the audiobook version of this 1998 Newbery Medalist, free verse historical fiction set in Oklahoma during the Great Depression, at http://newberryproject.blogspot.com/2007/08/out-of-dust-1998.html.
  rdg301library | May 24, 2015 |
This book would be good to use when talking about the Great Depression. I think students would like to look at the day to day life of someone their age going through this disaster. ( )
  Kate_Schulte078 | May 4, 2015 |
I remembered reading this book when I was much younger in elementary school and, after reading it as an adult, I can't believe how my teachers were allowed to let children that hadn't even reached puberty yet read this novel; it covers a lot of pretty heavy stuff, like the loss of a parent and the subsequent depression. Perhaps it was the free-verse-poetry form Hesse uses to tell the story that allowed this book to sneak under parental radar; what novel written in poetry form could cover anything so important?

Hesse's novel Out of the Dust reveals what life was like living in the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression through the story of 14-year-old Billy Joe Kelby. Her use of free-verse poetry makes the book an easy read full of beautiful and poignant descriptions that bring to life the everyday occurrences of the people struggling against the elements. I can tell if something has struck a chord with me when I have to close the book and savor the words for a while before moving on; Hesse does just that. Throughout it all, though, is this underlying hope that things will get better - that the rain will come, that Billy Joe's hands will play piano again, or that her dad will come out of his slump and acknowledge his own daughter. Her use of poetry cuts straight to the heart of the matter, bypassing all the verbosity authors can sometimes fall into with prose. I feel like this would be a great book to use in an ELA classroom that coincides with what students might be learning in their history or social studies classes. Also, this book could possibly be used as a transitional piece from a unit on prose to a unit on poetry. ( )
  vroussel | Apr 1, 2015 |
Out of the Dust discusses the struggles of Billie Jo during the dust bowl through free verse poetry. Through her story, students are able to really understand the heartache and power the dust bowl had on not only Billie Jo, but also her close friends and family. The book is written as a journal which makes it feel very close and intimate and students often feel like they are reliving parts of Billie Jo’s life. This book is great because it introduces so many important topics such as the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, unemployment, loss and grieving, as well as the power of hope and perseverance. This book, like Hitler Youth, is also told through a youth’s perspective which makes it much more engaging and easier to relate to for students. This book is great because it also shows the power poetry has and how it can convey emotions. Since each chapter is its own free verse poem, it also makes it an easier and quicker read for students.
  laineyh | Mar 15, 2015 |
sobering understanding of the "Dusty Thirties" especially 1934-1936. An afternoon well-spent if you can make time to read this incredible book. ( )
  olongbourn | Mar 1, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 240 (next | show all)
Could you imagine being in the great depression and being in dust! I read “Out of the Dust” by Karen Hesse. The narrator is Billie Jo Kelby. Her name sounds like a boy name because Billie Jo’s dad wanted a boy. This book is historical fiction written in poetry. The protagonist (Billie Jo) learns that she’s never going to get “Out of the Dust.”
This story takes place in Oklahoma from January 1934 to December 1935. The protagonist is Billie Jo and Billie Jo is a “long-legged girl with a wide mouth and cheekbones like bicycle handles. She has red hair and freckles. She loves to play piano.”The secondary characters are Ma, Pa, Arley, and Maddog. The quote that she was long-legged was important because it describes Billie Jo. The page number was page 3 if you want to look at the quote when you get the book.
In “Out of the Dust” the main conflict is Billie Jo’s ma died. Billie Jo accidently killed her ma by throwing a pail of kerosene on her that pa put next to the stove. After this event Pa and Billie Jo feel self-pity. The characters who are involved in this main conflict is Billie Jo, Pa, Ma. The quote to support the conflict is, “Daddy put a pail of kerosene next to the stove. Ma was fixing breakfast thinking the pail was full of water and she lifted it to makes daddy’s coffee and poured it, but instead of making coffee ma made a rope of fire.” This quote shows that the fire starts from the pail of kerosene. This quote was on page 60.
The resolution was that later in the book pa married this girl named Louise. This solved the problem because Billie Jo doesn’t need to feel lonely anymore. The protagonist (Billie Jo) learns that no matter what, she will always have family by her side. The reader learned that living in the 1930’s in Oklahoma is hard.
This book was really boring because it goes all over the place in the book. For example, it went from “A tent of pain” to “Drinking.”One connection from this book “Out of the Dust” is dust connects to “Esperanza rising.” It connects because dust storms are in each book. I think this book was humorous. For example they had a rabbit war, they shot rabbits. I think the weakness is that there is not enough action. For example the only action was when ma got burned. I didn’t like that it was written in poetry form either. Overall I think this book is humorous and not enough action so I would rate this book a 3/5 stars.
3/5 stars
added by Allisen | editMs. Moore's Classroom, Gabe (Apr 11, 2014)
 
Could you imagine being in the great depression when the dust bowls were going on? When you are only 14 and having your mom and baby brother die. The main character of “Out of the Dust” a historical fiction poetry story written by Karen Hesse is Billie Jo. The narrator of this story Billie Jo because it is written in first person. In this story Billie Jo (the protagonist) learns to live with the changes in her life.
“Out of the dust” takes place in 1934-1935 in Oklahoma. The protagonist is Billie Jo she is very good at piano and she is “long legged and wide mouthed”. She is also very happy at times but then again depressed at times. She is also very smart. Some of the other characters are Ma, Pa, Arley and Maddog. The quote in the story that proves she is smart is that “she scored top in the eighth grade on state tests. I found this on page 30
In “Out of the Dust” Billie Jo faces the problem of Ma dying. Billie Jo accidently killed her Ma by throwing a pail of kerosene on her that Pa put next to the stove. The characters that were involved in the problem were Ma, Pa and Billie Jo. It said in the story “ Daddy put a pail of kerosene to the stove and Ma fixing breakfast thinking it was filled with water, lifted it, to make Daddy’s coffee but instead she made a rope of fire”. This quote was on page 60.
Although the problem was solved! It was solved by another girl named Louise coming into Pa’s and Billie Jo’s life. This solved the problem because Louise took Ma’s spot in the family. For example she started to cook and clean for them. The protagonist (Billie Jo) she will always have family by her side. The reader can learn that living in Oklahoma in the 1930’s can be hard.
This book was boring almost all the time in my opinion because it didn’t really have any action or exciting moments. It did have one suspenseful moment When Ma died but that was it. I made a connection to the book “Number the Star’s” when I read this because they both won Newberry awards medals, they both are written in first person by two 14 year old girls. They both took place during the 1930’s. The strengths of this book is that it creates a picture in your mind while you’re reading. For example when the fire happened you could picture it. The weaknesses are that it didn’t have enough excitement and the format was not good. It was just boring overall. I would give this book a 2/5 stars.
added by Allisen | editMs. Moore's Class, Izayah (Apr 11, 2014)
 
Has something bad happened to you like your getting covered in dust, you killed your own mom and the baby she was having? How about burning your own hands and your talent is gone? One more thing all of this happened and you and your dad feel like strangers? Probably not. Well a 14 year old girl named Billie-Jo did all of this. Billie-Jo is from the book “Out Of The Dust” by Karen Hesse. The main character is Billie-Jo and the protagonist is also Billie-Jo.
Billie-Jo lives in the 1930s in the great depression or (dust bowl). No one wanted to be there at that time. Everybody during that time was sad ad really depressed. In the story the protagonist is the main character in this case its Billie-Jo. She is the protagonist because she’s good she try her best at things even though there were a few accidents. Another character is Billie-Jos ma and dad but ma doesn’t last very long. Billie-Jos dad tries his best, but didn’t really bother with her till the end again. Something that Billie-Jo always says is that “dads digging his own grave not a pond. That’s important because it seems dad can’t take the pressure that ma is gone.
The main problem in this story is that ma dies and its dad and Billie-Jos fault. When Billie-Jo says dads digging his own grave not a pond, he’s doing that because to much stuff is going on it was easier with ma. That’s a big problem because that turns into little problems like Billie-Jo runs away.
The solution to that is when Billie-Jo runs away and she learns where she had to be and where she belongs and where she belongs is home with her dad. So Billie-Jo called her dad and went back home. That’s also what Billie-Jo learned. What I learned from the book is that people belong with their family even if it’s a terrible time. People belong where they were bon where the people that love them are.
My personal opinion about this book is PICK IT UP AND READ IT! It’s a great book its depressing but amazing. I give this book a 4/5. Another book I can connect it to is Esperanza Rising. I say that bok because some events happen like in both books there are dust storms and a lot of people are are depressed. What I liked was that there’s a really high climate and what I don’t like is that its kinda predictable so I give “out of the dust” a 4/5.

added by Allisen | editMs. Moore's Class, Cai (Apr 11, 2014)
 
Have you ever thrown a pail of flaming kerosene on your mother? Had your hands fried off? Or even ran away? In “Out of the Dust” by Karen Hesse, Billie Jo does all these things. Billie Jo learns that she can’t run away from her problems.
“Out of the Dust” by Karen Hesse starts in the August of 1920, Billie Jo’s birthday, but then jumps to the winter of 1934 in Oklahoma when Billie Jo is almost 14. Billie Jo’s father helps her realize the problem. In the book, Billie Jo says to her father “I can’t be my own mother and I can’t be my own father and if you both leave me what am I supposed to do?” This Quote by Karen Hesse on page #205 shows how Billie Jo realized the problem.
The main problem in Out of the Dust is that Billie Jo’s mother dies and Billie Jo runs away, Out of the dust. The Quote “Getting away wasn’t any better, just different” by Karen Hesse on page #204 shows that when Billie Jo runs away, she realizes she should go back home.
After Billie Jo runs away, she realizes she can’t run away from her problems. At the end, Billie Jo meets “The Other woman” (Pa’s new girlfriend) and begins to like her. The reader can take away that like Billie Jo, you can’t run away from you problems.
In this book, some parts about just the dust are boring. And some parts are exciting. The exciting parts are suspenseful and you might even say action packed. This book is similar to Esperanza rising because it is in the same time and some similar events. In conclusion, I would rate this book 4/5 stars.
added by Allisen | editMs. Moore's Class, Ian (Apr 11, 2014)
 
Claire Rosser (KLIATT Review, March 1999 (Vol. 33, No. 2))
This novel has won just about all the possible prizes, including the Newbery Medal, so most of you must already know about it. This trade paperback edition is sturdy, with a picture of Billie Jo in a straw hat on the cover. It should hold up well for classroom use, which is a certainty. The story of tragedy, despair, and finally hope is told in poetry form, with Billie Jo as the youthful narrator, her story unfolding in chapters. The story begins as Billie Jo is 14 years old, with her parents barely eking out an existence in dust-choked Oklahoma in the 1930s. Her mother is pregnant, her father works stubbornly on their failing farm, and Billie Jo gets some joy out of playing the piano and earning some money. This life seems grim, but it gets even grimmer when an accident scars Billie Jo's hands and causes her mother's death. How she recovers from the pain and the guilt, and how she and her father remain on the farm, with the dust ever thicker, smothering them, is the struggle of the story. Students will be fascinated that Hesse tells this gripping, emotional story through poetry; and the form will inspire them and their teachers to explore poetry in their own storytelling. KLIATT Codes: J*--Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 1997, Scholastic Apple/Signature, 227p. 20cm, $4.99. Ages 13 to 15.

added by kthomp25 | edit(KLIATT Review, March 1999 (Vol. 33, No. 2)), Claire Rosser
 
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Epigraph
Dedication
To Brenda Bowen, who is so much more than an editor.

I extend heartfelt thanks to Eileen Christelow, Kate, Rachel, and Randy Hesse, Liza Ketchum, Jeffrey and Bernice Millman, Maryann Sparks, and the Oklahoma Historical Society.
First words
As summer wheat came ripe, so did I, born at home, on the kitchen floor.
Quotations
They didn't talk
about my father leaving kerosene by the stove.
They didn't say a word about my father
drinking himself
into a stupor
while Ma writhed, begging for water.
They only said,
Billie Jo threw the pail of kerosene.
She went to college for two years
and studied and worked,
and didn't notice how lonely she was
until she met Daddy and fell into the
big hurt of his eyes.
And I'm learning, watching Daddy, that you can stay in one place and still grow.
When I rode the train west, I went looking for something, but I didn't see anything wonderful. I didn't see anything better than what I already had. Home.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
This Newbery-winning novel in verse tells the story of a young girl living in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. She survives tragedy and great anger; she loses the gift of music in her life (though only temporarily); she decides to run away to California but ends up back home before long; she sees hope and moves forward to overcome her obstacles. It's beautifully written; the narrator's voice is perfect and the conflicts believable. Worthy of lots of class discussion with junior-high readers and up. Maybe a little dark for intermediate grades.

A terrible accident has transformed Billie Jo's life, scarring her inside and out. Her mother is gone. Her father can't talk about it. And the one thing that might make her feel better - playing the piano- is impossible with her wounded hands. To make matters worse, dust storms are devastating the family farm and all the farms nearby. While others flee from the dust bowl, Billie Jo is left to find peace in the bleak landscape of Oklahoma- and in the surprising landscape of her own heart.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0590371258, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:04 -0400)

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In a series of poems, fifteen-year-old Billie Jo relates the hardships of living on her family's wheat farm in Oklahoma during the dust bowl years of the Depression.

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