This book has won numerous
awards for outstanding fiction. Set in the Oklahoma Panhandle in 1934 during
the Great Depression, this book tells the story of 14 year old Billie Jo.
Oklahoma is besieged with dust storms. The crops have failed because of
drought. The wind seems to blow constantly and the dust is always in the
air. Trucks, trackers and even Billie Jo's piano are lost in the dust.
When her mother is killed during a terrible accident, the townspeople hold
Billie Jo responsible. Even her father is no help to her. He is caught
up in the despair of the Depression and turns to the bottle. This book
is written in first person free verse poetry and tells the story of Billie
Jo and the courage it takes for her to endure. There is no pat ending to
this book and the journey will lift you OUT OF THE DUST.
I hope you like living in New
Hampshire. I do. But, how would you feel if it never rained?
I don't mean for a month or so, but months and months, and when it finally
rains, the earth is so parched that it doesn't even matter. You sweep
the dust out of your house, but in moments, everything is covered with
dust again. The dust just finds its way in through the windows and
under the doors even though they're closed. Would you feel hopeless?
Well, this is Billie Jo's world. She's growing up in Oklahoma in
the 1930's during the days of the Dustbowl in the United States.
At one point, she describes seventy days of wind and sun, wind and clouds,
wind and sand. A world of gray days and dark nights. As if
the dust is not enough to cope with, Billie Jo has a serious accident that
changes her life forever, and shatters her dream of ever getting out of
that place. If you've ever gotten dust in your eyes, your eyes have teared.
This book will make your eyes tear as well. (New Hampshire Great
Stone Face Committee)
Dust. Dust. Dust. Everywhere
I look all that I see is dust. We stuff rags under the doors to try to
keep the dust from coming inside our house. That barely helps. When we
set the table for a meal we have to turn the plates and glasses upside
down to keep out the dust; but the dust still manages to cover everything.
You think that you are drinking chocolate milk but really it's a glass
of milk filled with dust that turns it brown. The wind blows all the time
and the wind blows nothing but dust. Itís bad enough having to deal with
the dust on the inside; but my dad has to deal with the dust on the outside
as well. He's a farmer who is trying to grow wheat to sell so that we have
money to pay our bills; but nothing wants to grow in dust. Rain. It never
rains, so how can you grow crops with dust and no rain?
If living in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl during the Great Depression isn't hard
enough, wait until I tell you about a tragic accident that changed my whole
life. Itís just three in my family, my ma, my pa, and me. Ma's tried to
have other babies, but they all died. Finally we find out she's expecting
a baby. My pa is so excited. I know that he loves me; but I also
know that he would like to have a son to help him outside on our farm.
Itís July 1934, and it's almost time for my ma to deliver the new baby
when the accident happens.
Excerpt from the book: The Accident, July 1934 (Hesse, 60-61).
Meet Billie Jo Kelby, a fourteen year old, who blames herself for the death
of her mother and her baby brother. She tries to talk to her father
but she knows that he believes it is totally her fault for the bad accident.
She knows in her heart that everyone blames her, but in her mind she keeps
asking the question, why did my pa put kerosene beside the stove, instead
of the pail of water that was usually there? With no one to talk to, Billie
Jo believes life would be better if she leaves her sorrows and searches
for a new life somewhere else. Life in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl during the
Great Depression is tough for anyone; but in an attempt to heal herself,
can Billie Jo find the strength to take up roots and leave behind everything
she has every known? Can Billie Jo forgive herself? Can she
regain her father's love? Join Billie Jo and find out if she can rise Out
of the Dust. Discover the strength and courage
of Billie Jo Kelby in Karen Hesseís 1998 Newbery Medal winner, Out of the
Dust. Author Karen Hesse brilliantly creates a historical fiction
series of free verse poems told in a diary format that emphatically describes
the difficulties of everyday life in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl during the
Great Depression. (Becky Proctor, email@example.com,
school librarian at Dorchester Academy in St. George, SC)
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
is a novel written entirely in poems. This is not the hard to understand
poetry of Shakespeare. These poems are written by a 14-year-old girl named
Billie Jo Kelby. They tell the story of her life in Oklahoma in the 1930's
during the dust bowl. We have all seen pictures of big storms of dust;
whether it was a photograph from this time period or a scene from the movie
Mummy. But, movies and photographs cannot come close to describing what
it would feel like to live in a place that is plagued by dust day in and
day out. The family even has to turn their cups and plates upside down
on the table until it is time to eat because the wind blows the dust so
hard it comes in through the cracks around the windows and doors. The dry
conditions are especially hard if your family depends on farming as Billy
Jo's family did.
You would think that all of the dust would make Billy Jo sad or depressed,
but is doesn't. She is an upbeat young lady who enjoys playing the piano
( she has even gotten some gigs that pay). Her love of music has made her
some very good friends. She has a loving mother and father and a new baby
brother or sister on the way. Best of all she has hope. All of these things
sustain her until the day of the accident. Then her life is changed forever.
Will Billy Jo be able to recover from the accident? Will she play the piano
again? Will her hope be enough to get her through? Will she get Out of
the Dust? (Kelley Rigdon, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Librarian at Episcopal Day School, Augusta, GA)
Have you ever experienced a
drought? What about a dust bowl? These are all events that happened in
Out of the Dust. If you want to see what Billy Jo experienced you should
read Karen Hesse's novel.
Billy Joe is the main character. She is 9 years old and loves to play the
piano. When she played she played for important people. Then something
bad goes wrong. She has her hands burned with kerosene. She thinks her
piano playing career is over because it hurts to play. She tries to live
through the dust without the piano but it's hard.
Her mom was pregnant with a baby who was named Franklin. Then when the
baby was due Billy Joe accidentally poured kerosene on to her mom and burned
her. Ma was a really strict mother but she loved her little girl and Billy
Joe loved her. After the incident ma gave birth but in the process ma died.
The baby died a little later and they were buried together.
Pa was a very stubborn guy because of the dust. He would never stop planting
and thinking that it would grow. No matter how hard the dust blew in he
kept trying, and would never stop. He was a salty sailor on the outside
but soft and fruity on the inside deep down. He was very depressed when
ma died and didn't talk much but the he starts to have a fatherly relationship
with Billy Joe.
During the whole book it takes place on a family farm in Oklahoma where
nothing grows. Billy Joe has to try to survive and deal with conflicts
like death and despair.
The book Out of the Dust is a very unique book. The whole thing is written
in free verse poem. It is interesting and vivid, and it didn't take much
time to read. The vocabulary was lox level and reading didn't really grab
you attention because it takes no time to read and it isn't half bad. It's
a nice little story. (Stephen and Bergen, Minturn Middle School)
I sensed it before I knew it
I heard it,
While Ma and Daddy slept,
the dust came,
tearing up fields
It wasnít until the dust turned
toward the house,
like a fired locomotive,
and I fled,
barefoot and breathless, back
it wasnít until the dust
hissed against the windows,
that Daddy woke.
He ran into the storm,
his overall half-hooked over
his union suit.
ďDaddy!Ē I called. ďYou canít
Ma told me to
cover the beds,
push the scatter rugs against
dampen the rags around the
Wiping dust out of everything,
she made coffee and biscuits,
waiting for Daddy to come
Sometime after four,
rubbing low on her back,
Ma sank down into a chair
at the kitchen table
and covered her face.
Daddy didnít come back for
until the temperature dropped
it brought snow.
Ma and I sighed, grateful,
staring out at the dirty flakes,
but our relief didnít last.
The wind snatched that snow
right off the fields,
leaving behind a sea of dust,
rippling across our yard.
Daddy came in,
he sat across from Ma and
blew his nose.
Mud streamed out.
He coughed and spit out
If he had cried,
his tears would have been
but he didnít cry.
And neither did Ma.
Read Out of the Dust, a historical
fiction novel by Karen Hesse about a girl named Billie Jo who has
to live through the dust storm at a young age of fourteen. Read about
have she loves apples and the piano and how the dust storm affected her
family and their farm. (Rebecca Rickman, Ra-Rickman@wiu.edu, college