Jane's Reviews > Out of the Dust

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
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Apr 09, 11

bookshelves: young-adult, poetry
Read from March 01 to April 01, 2011 — I own a copy, read count: 3

This is an amazing book and reading it with a book club of six fifth graders has made the experience of the book even more wonderful. It is gritty--literally and metaphorically. I can feel the dust between my teeth as I read. I thought the tragedy of the main character's situation would be too horrific for young readers but we have had wonderful discussions about the writing, the use of poetry, the depression and race--even though the book is not about race. That topic came up because one child asked, "Why do we assume the main character is white?" The photo on the front cover wasn't enough for her. She is referring to our ongoing conversation about white being the assumed race of a character until the race is mentioned or our stereotypes about race are engaged. We've listened to an audio tape, done research on Dorothea Lange and looked at reference books about the Dust Bowl. These books are written for fifth through eighth graders and are filled with photographs. Survival stories appeal to my students and this is definitely a survival story. The unfairness of Billy Jo's life, how one tragedy is piled on another, doesn't seem to phase these students. Perhaps because of the stories they continually hear about earthquakes, tsunamis and war.
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