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Out of the Dust Reissue Edition
Contributor(s): Hesse, Karen

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ISBN: 0590371258     ISBN-13: 9780590371254
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
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Binding Type: Paperback - See All Available Formats & Editions
Published: January 1999
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Annotation: "DUST PILES UP LIKE SNOW ACROSS THE PRAIRIE..".

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.

Additional Information
Dewey: FIC
Academic/Grade Level: Grade 7-9, Age 12-14
Book type: Juvenile Fiction
Physical Information: 7.50" H x 5.25" W x 0.75" (0.35 lbs) 227 pages
 
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.
Publisher Description:
A poem cycle that reads as a novel, "Out of the Dust" tells the story of Billie Jo, a girl who struggles to help her family survive the dustbowl years of the Depression. Fighting against the elements on her Oklahoma farm, Billie Jo takes on even more responsibilities when her mother dies in a tragic accident. A testament to the American spirit, this novel is an instant classic.

Contributor Bio(s): IV>Karen Hesse is the award-winning and critically acclaimed author of many books for children. Her titles include WITNESS, THE CATS IN KRASINSKI SQUARE, and the Newbery Medal winner OUT OF THE DUST, among many others. She lives in Vermont with her husband and two teenaged daughters.

Reviewed by Horn Book Guide Reviews (Horn Book Guide Reviews 1998)
In first-person free-verse poems fourteen-year-old Billie Jo Kelby relates her Depression-era experiences in the Oklahoma panhandle. Billie Jo's aborted escape from the dust bowl almost gets lost in a procession of bleak events, instead of serving as the book's climax. Yet her voice, nearly every word informed by longing, provides an immediacy that expressively depicts both a grim historical era and one family's healing. Copyright 1998 Horn Book Guide Reviews

Reviewed by Horn Book Magazine Reviews (Horn Book Magazine Reviews 1998 #1)
Prairie winds dark with dust blow through this novel-turning suppers gritty, burying tractors, and scouring lungs. Even the pages of the book, composed solely of first-person, free-verse poems, have a windswept appearance as fourteen-year-old Billie Jo Kelby relates her Depression-era experiences in the Oklahoma panhandle: "We haven't had a good crop in three years, / not since the bounty of '31, / and we're all whittled down to the bone these days." Billie Jo's world is further devastated when a kitchen fire causes the deaths of her mother and newborn brother and severely injures her hands, stalling the fledgling pianist's dream of a music career. A few of the poems are pretentious in tone or facile in execution, and some of the longer, narrative-driven pieces strain at the free verse structure, but the distinctive writing style is nonetheless remarkably successful. Filled with memorable images-such as Billie Jo's glimpse of her pregnant mother bathing outdoors in a drizzle-the spare verses showcase the poetry of everyday language; the pauses between line breaks speak eloquently, if sometimes melodramatically. The focus of the entire book is not quite as concise. As tragedies pile up over the two-year timeline (a plague of grasshoppers descends, starving cattle need to be shot, Billie Jo's father develops skin cancer), the pace becomes slightly numbing. Billie Jo's aborted escape from the dust bowl almost gets lost in the procession of bleak events, instead of serving as the book's climax. Yet her voice, nearly every word informed by longing, provides an immediacy that expressively depicts both a grim historical era and one family's healing. peter d. sieruta Copyright 1999 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly Reviews (PW Reviews 1999 January #2)
In a starred review of the 1998 Newbery Medal winner, set during the Depression, PW said, "This intimate novel, written in stanza form, poetically conveys the heat, dust and wind of Oklahoma. With each meticulously arranged entry Hesse paints a vivid picture of her heroine's emotions." Ages 11-13. (Jan.) Copyright 1999 Publishers Weekly Reviews

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly Reviews (PW Reviews 1997 August #4)
This intimate novel, written in stanza form, poetically conveys the heat, dust and wind of Oklahoma along with the discontent of narrator Billy Jo, a talented pianist growing up during the Depression. Unlike her father, who refuses to abandon his failing farm ("He and the land have a hold on each other"), Billy Jo is eager to "walk my way West/ and make myself to home in that distant place/ of green vines and promise." She wants to become a professional musician and travel across the country. But those dreams end with a tragic fire that takes her mother's life and reduces her own hands to useless, "swollen lumps." Hesse's (The Music of Dolphins) spare prose adroitly traces Billy Jo's journey in and out of darkness. Hesse organizes the book like entries in a diary, chronologically by season. With each meticulously arranged entry she paints a vivid picture of Billy Jo's emotions, ranging from desolation ("I look at Joe and know our future is drying up/ and blowing away with the dust") to longing ("I have a hunger,/ for more than food./ I have a hunger/ bigger than Joyce City") to hope (the farmers, surveying their fields,/ nod their heads as/ the frail stalks revive,/ everyone, everything, grateful for this moment,/ free of the/ weight of dust"). Readers may find their own feelings swaying in beat with the heroine's shifting moods as she approaches her coming-of-age and a state of self-acceptance. Ages 11-13. (Oct.) Copyright 1998 Publishers Weekly Reviews

Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 1997 December)
Gr 5 Up After facing loss after loss during the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, Billie Jo begins to reconstruct her life. A triumphant story, eloquently told through prose-poetry. (Sept.) Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews

Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 1997 September)
In the midst of the Dust Bowl, 13-year-old Billie Jo loses her mother and unborn brother in an accident that she is partly responsible for and burns her own hands so badly that she may never again find solace in her only pleasure playing the piano. Growing ever more distant from her brooding father, she hops on a train going west, and discovers that there is no escaping the dust of her Oklahoma home she is part of it and it is part of her. Hesse uses free-verse poems to advance the plot, allowing the narrator to speak for herself much more eloquently than would be possible in standard prose. The author's astute and careful descriptions of life during the dust storms of the 1930s are grounded in harsh reality, yet are decidedly poetic; they will fascinate as well as horrify today's readers. Hesse deals with questions of loss, forgiveness, home, and even ecology by exposing and exploring Billie Jo's feelings of pain, longing, and occasional joy. Readers may at first balk at a work of fiction written as poetry, but the language, imagery, and rhythms are so immediate that after only a few pages it will seem natural to have the story related in verse. This book is a wonderful choice for classrooms involved in journal-writing assignments, since the poems often read like diary entries. It could also be performed effectively as readers' theater. Hesse's ever-growing skill as a writer willing to take chances with her form shines through superbly in her ability to take historical facts and weave them into the fictional story of a character young people will readily embrace. Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews
 
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