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Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
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Out of the Dust (1997)

by Karen Hesse

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Showing 1-5 of 282 (next | show all)
A YA historical fiction novel written in the form of diary entries is nothing new, however the free verse writing style is what sets Out of the Dust apart from other books discussing the 1930s dust storms.

At times I did have to remind myself that the account, written from a girl's perspective, was fictional. Sometimes the insightfulness and language of the prose did seem overly sophisticated, but for the most part it sounded authentic. This isn't just a novel about a historical event, but in some respects it is also a coming of age story. Growing up, cultivating an identity, losing friends and significant others, are all intermingled with the ominous daily task of dealing with dust and drought. In general terms, the story is bleak but thankfully Karen Hesse eventually manages to find some sense of balance and hopefulness.

Word of warning to potential readers, I would recommend avoiding the author's website/blog until completely finished with the book, as there are spoilers on the homepage.

Passages worthy of highlighting:

The way I see it, hard times aren’t only about money, or drought, or dust. Hard times are about losing spirit, and hope, and what happens when dreams dry up.

It blossomed at night, when the sun couldn’t scorch it, when the wind was quiet, when there might have been a sip of dew to freshen it. I couldn’t watch at dawn, when the flower, touched by the first finger of morning light, wilted and died. I couldn’t watch as the tender petals burned up in the sun.

More information:

Oklahoma Dust Bowl 1930s and 2014:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/05/140516-dust-bowl-drought-oklahom...

Karen Hesse's Blog:
https://karenhesseblog.wordpress.com ( )
  Lisa805 | Mar 21, 2017 |
This book is a beuatifully written story about hard work and courage. The most beauftiul part about this story is that it is in the perspective of a teenage girl living in the great depression. Before I read this book, I didn't know anything about the great depression, and because of the book I wanted to learn more about the dust bowl incident. After learning about the time period they were living in you have even greater respect for the main character who you fall in love with through the story. The way the story is written, is through short poems that all end in a month and year. I love the book because of its extreme imagery and creative desciptive language. My favorite part in the story is towards the end, when Hesse used repetition to show the realization that Billie Jo came to, about the fact that you can't escape your problems by running away, the fact that she belongs in Oklahoma with her Father, and to stay positive and stay strong. "And I am like the wheat, and I can't grow everywhere, but I can grow here, with a little rain, with a little care, with a little luck." I also like the similes Hesse used to create meaning, "Ma is like tumbleweed, He was like tumbleweeed, holding on for as long as she could then blowing away on the wind." ( )
1 vote aedwar14 | Mar 9, 2017 |
I would use this book in grades 3rd-5th because the reading level for this book is above the reading level of K-2nd graders. I would use the book in 3rd grade as a class novel to learn about the dust bowl and how to write free-verse poetry. In 4th and 5th grade the book could be used as a independent read for students who find historical events interesting.
  mwilcox02 | Mar 2, 2017 |
This would be an excellent book for 6-8th grade students as the main character is a little older than them, and they would be interested in it. Also, it is written in free verse, so it would serve as a wonderful introduction into poetry. It could be used in a history class or in a literature class as class novel that they all read together. This would be good because they may have had grandparents who lived through the dust bowl, and they could relate to that while learning about poetry and the dust bowl.
  tmoreland01 | Feb 27, 2017 |
One thing that stood out to me was that the author chose to put the month and the year after every poem. I found that to be genius because it helps the reader follow Billie Jo from August 1920 to December 1935. The setting of this story is during the Great Depression and centers around the difficulties felt due to the Dust Bowl. Even though there are some very sad moments in this novel, I loved the story. Billie Jo grows tremendously throughout this book. She goes from being bitter and angry to persevering and hopeful. My favorite quote from this novel was, "The way I see it, hard times aren't only about money, or drought, or dust. Hard times are about losing spirit, and hope, and what happens when dreams dry up." I think any age would enjoy this story. I recommended this book to an eighty-five year old woman and she absolutely loved it. ( )
  AubrieSmith | Feb 15, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 282 (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)
 
This book is a beuatifully written story about hard work and courage. The most beauftiul part about this story is that it is in the perspective of a teenage girl living in the great depression. Before I read this book, I didn't know anything about the great depression, and because of the book I wanted to learn more about the dust bowl incident. After learning about the time period they were living in you have even greater respect for the main character who you fall in love with through the story. The way the story is written, is through short poems that all end in a month and year. I love the book because of its extreme imagery and creative desciptive language. My favorite part in the story is towards the end, when Hesse used repetition to show the realization that Billie Jo came to, about the fact that you can't escape your problems by running away, the fact that she belongs in Oklahoma with her Father, and to stay positive and stay strong. "And I am like the wheat, and I can't grow everywhere, but I can grow here, with a little rain, with a little care, with a little luck." I also like the similes Hesse used to create meaning, "Ma is like tumbleweed, He was like tumbleweeed, holding on for as long as she could then blowing away on the wind."
 
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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 (1)

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:07 -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.

» see all 2 descriptions

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