Out of the Dust Author:Karen Hesse 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 tr... more »ucks, 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.« less
Written as a free style poem, this book is heart wrenching and compelling. Vivid imagery effectively forces the reader to go through the same sorrows and joys that Billy Joe experiences. I could not put it down until I was finished.
I've never been the fondest of novels-in-verse or historical fiction. I suppose OUT OF THE DUST was alright. It has all the qualities of a book that make it appeal to the awards committees: grievous troubles, a protagonist mired by obstacles, family troubles, yadda yadda. But I never really felt a connection to...what's her name? I can't even remember. Oy.
Also, the novel-in-verse format has to contribute something to the story; it cannot be an arbitrary. And I didn't really see why Hesse chose to write this book in this way.