Out of the Dust was written by Karen Hesse and published in 1997.


Out of the Dust

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 devestating 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.

Plot Summary Edit

This book, told in the form of poems, tells the story of a young girl named Billie Jo and her life in the dust bowl of Oklahoma during the Great Depression. Billie Jo lives a harsh life but she finds solace in playing the piano. One day, her life takes a drastic change. Her father leaves a bucket of kerosene near the stove, which catches fire, burning both Billie Jo and her mother. Her mother soon dies and Billie Jo is left to care for both herself and her father. This book shows the power of persistence and strength through extremely tough conditions.

Main Characters Edit

  • Billie Jo - The main girl in this story, who lives in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl era. She is very gited at playing the piano.
  • Pa - A hardworking farmer who must care for Billie Jo after his wife dies.
  • Ma - Billie Jo's mother, who dies early on in the story.
  • Mad Dog - A friend of Billie Jo's who is a gifted singer.

Memorable Quotes Edit

"Now Livie's gone west,/out of the dust,/on her way to California,/where the wind takes a rest sometimes./ And I'm wondering what kind of friend I am,/wanting my feet on that road to another place,/instead of Livie's." Winter 1934, page 9

"When I point my fingers at the keys,/the music/springs straight out of me./Right hand/playing notes sharp as/tongues,/telling stories while the/smooth/buttery rhythms back me up/on the left." Winter 1934, page 13

"Daddy bought it, an old Cramer,/his wedding gift to her./She came to this house and found gaps in the walls,/a rusty bed, no running water,/and that piano,/gleaming in the corner." Winter 1934, page 24

Teacher Evaluation Edit

I personally found this book to be rather depressing, but it does give an interesting insight into a terrible time in our history. The various poems in which it is written, make this book very easy to read and keeps the reader wanting to read more. I would definitely recommend this book to you to be readwhen discussing the Dust Bowl or Great Depression. I think that you will find this book to be very sad, but it will give you a version of history from a child's point of view.

Additional Information Edit

Out of the Dust was the winner of the Newbery Medal in 1998, Scott O'Dell Award, an ALA Notable Children's Book, an ALA "Best book for young adults", a School Library Journal "best book of the year", a Booklist "Editors' Choice" award, a Book Links "Lasting Connection", a Publishers Weekly "best book of the year", and a New York Public Library "100 Titles for Reading and Sharing" selection.

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