Patrice's Reviews > Out of the Dust

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
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Nov 20, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011
Recommended for: teachers, young readers, Steinbeck fans
Read on November 18, 2011

I couldn't resist reading this book, though entirely written in small poems.

The Walker Evans photograph on the front of the cover is what initially attracted me. The photograph, a silver gelatin print from the FSA days of depression era America, is a stark black and white portrait of a girl in 1936 Alabama. After having read this novel, it's no wonder it won the Newbery Medal in 1997.

This book begins in Oklahoma during the winter of 1934. The first poem is the story of the main character's birth in 1920. Billie Jo's mother squats on a stool in the kitchen and a redheaded girl child comes yelling into the world. The poems are the work of Billie Jo, the reader follows her life and family's struggle during her young teenage years. Billie Jo is a tomboy and a piano player. Billie's mother and father have a small farm in Oklahoma that they try to maintain despite the lack of rain and dust storms that decimate the wheat crops.

The poems in this book are far from sickening sweet rhymes, but rather small stories packed with raw images of a desperate life during the dust bowl days of Oklahoma.
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