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Out of the Dust

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  73,409 ratings  ·  4,871 reviews
When Billie Jo is just fourteen she must endure heart-wrenching ordeals that no child should have to face. The quiet strength she displays while dealing with unspeakable loss is as surprising as it is inspiring.

Written in free verse, this award-winning story is set in the heart of the Great Depression. It chronicles Oklahoma's staggering dust storms, and the environmental-

Paperback, 227 pages
Published June 1st 2005 by Scholastic Inc. (first published January 1st 1997)
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Candace Apparently it's too "gruesome" and "depressing." Maybe they shouldn't read historical fiction.…moreApparently it's too "gruesome" and "depressing." Maybe they shouldn't read historical fiction.(less)
Elena Griffiths It doesn't rhyme but it is read like a normal story but less word and more pages than necessary.…moreIt doesn't rhyme but it is read like a normal story but less word and more pages than necessary.(less)

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Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  73,409 ratings  ·  4,871 reviews

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J.L.   Sutton
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust (1998 Newberry Medal winner) is a poignant coming of age story chronicling a young woman's struggle with loss and hardship during Oklahoma's Dust Bowl. Written in blank verse, its rhythm somehow matches the spare landscape and emotional toil of the protagonist. It's an easy and quick read, but worthwhile. 3.5 stars rounded up. ...more

The other day, just out of the blue, I was hit with the thought, "Remember that book about the Dust Bowl you read for school ages ago, and hated with a fury? You should review it and avenge your past self for being subjugated to it."

So that's exactly what I did.

I swear, this was me the entire book:


You know what's coming, folks. Time for another rant with Ryan.


Where do I even begin? I read this back when it was required reading, and I absolutely hated it. This was probably the most boring book I
Jun 13, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mark-harmon
will someone tell me why this is written in verse?? it doesnt add anything to the feel of the book; if anything, it is distracting and seems very contrived. why would this character be writing poems?? it would make so much more sense to write this as diary entries. maybe because poems take up more room so you can get away with writing less to make up a full book?? no one knows. that being said, i liked this, but its not going to earn a place on my childrens book wall of fame. its kind of horrify ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Apr 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: Kwesi
Shelves: newberry, childrens
This story is so dark and gruesome that if it were put in prose and not in verse, would probably not pass the standard of the judges for the Newberry Medal. Yes, this won that medal (1998) because the beautiful verses toned down the gloom and sadness that even a middle-age man Asian guy like me felt while imagining what happened to the Kelby family during the Oklahoma Dust Bowl in 1934-1935. It is just too sad that even the harrowing experience of the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s magnum opus, ...more
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“The way I see it, hard times aren't only about money,
or drought,
or dust.
Hard times are about losing spirit,
and hope,
and what happens when dreams dry up.”

When I look for books for my children, I quite frequently end up buying one book to explain and illustrate another. I had bought The Dust Bowl: An Illustrated History to give them (and myself, as I always end up reading their books as well) a new perspective on the Great Depression era, and this small children's novel in verse seemed to be a p
May 25, 2008 rated it it was ok
This book is so depressing I wanted to shoot myself.
Shannon (kitchandpages)
This is a must read children's book for me. I loved it as a kid and I loved jumping back into it. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend. ...more
Beginning: August 1920

As summer wheat came ripe
so did I,
born at home, on the kitchen floor.
Ma crouched,
barefoot, bare bottomed
over the swept boards,
because that's where Daddy said it'd be best

I came too fast for the doctor, bawling as soon as Daddy wiped his hand around inside my mouth.
To hear Ma tell it,
I hollered myself red the day I was born.
Red's the color I've stayed ever since.

Daddy named me Billie Jo.
He wanted a boy.
he got a long-legged girl
with a wide mouth
and cheekbones lik
Catherine Yee
Jun 29, 2010 rated it did not like it

Out of the dust...
And into the trash
May 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: kwesi 章英狮
I read this book (historical fiction told in prose poetry) yesterday. Then, this morning, I saw in the newspaper that the Oklahoma Panhandle (where the book is set) is experiencing a drought worse than during the Dust Bowl, the time period of this novel.

I think if I had been able to read this as a child, it would've made an even bigger impression on me. It would've stayed in my memory and I probably would've gone on to read Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath when I got older. (I still need to do th
kwesi 章英狮
Dec 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, owned, karen-hesse
I never enjoyed my history subject when I was young, I always have the worst teacher and the worst field trips in my entire life. Contradict to that, I enjoyed reading historical fiction and children's books. Although I don't have any idea about dust bowl or the great depression or whatever happened that time. I told you, I never learned something from my world history teacher. But after reading this book last year, I was amazed that Karen Hesse wrote something emotional for children to love and ...more
 Princess Gabriel The Bookish Bookaholic of the Western Timbers of Librarianland (aka Gabriel the Bookaholic)
Yeah... Well, I think it is a good read if you wanna be hella depressed and wanna know about the Dust Bowl, otherwise, I don't rec it... ...more
Jan 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Children who would like to know about life in Depression-era, Dust Bowl Oklahoma
Recommended to Apokripos by: Kwesi Ian Jay Junsan
Because of Dust
(A Book Review of Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust)

Since reading John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, I’ve often wondered how life could’ve been to the Oklahoman farmers and families who opted not to leave their land. Karen Hesse, in her 1998 Newbery Medal book Out of the Dust, gives us a glimpse of the rigors of farm life in the Depression-era, Dust Bowl Oklahoma through the eyes of Billie Jo as her father scrapes a meager living out of the parched, drought-stricken fields while she gr
Book number 4, I mean 6, on my Young Adult whirlwind reading binge. I think these books are making my head go softer than it already was.

This is an ambivalent three stars. This book didn't do much for me. I like that the reviews that I glanced at for this book all called this really depressing. Maybe I don't like it, but I find it kind of amusing. I didn't find it all that depressing, the most depressing thing in the book I think was lifted from Woody Guthries life, opps. I don't really know ab
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I first this in maybe high school? I read it again last year. Out of The Dust is such a profound impactful read. I didn't appreciate all of its nuances until I read it as an adult. So tragic. So beautiful written in a unique style. Perhaps Out Of The Dust should be required college reading. Karen Hesse' s words stay with you long after the reading is done. ...more
Nov 23, 2008 rated it did not like it
Maybe I would like this more if I read it now on my own. As it is, I read it in high school and hated every second of it. Most depressing thing I've ever read in my life. I understand that living in the Oklahoma dust bowl would be horrible but that's not the depressing part... ...more
Mariah Roze
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
I remember loving this book!
Mar 04, 2021 rated it it was ok
Billie Jo's entire personality is liking apples, playing the piano, and finding a way to ruin things for others and herself.
Her parents are complete stereotypes. I could guess what they would be like after the first chapter, which is three pages of verse. My guess was right.
I only liked how this book was made of poems because otherwise it would be even more of a pain to read.

Daddy named me Billie Jo. He wanted a boy. Instead, he got a long-legged girl with a wide mouth, and cheekbones like bi
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written in that free verse poetry style that I've recently discovered. An emotional story with so much history as it gives us a glimpse of what it must have been like to live in the dust bowl era and the hardships involved. I thoroughly enjoyed this and feel like it would great for any age to read. ...more
Ln Rispoli
May 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Out of the Dust is my kind of book. It is an incredibly emotional story told through poetry. The book is slow paced because of the poetic convention but this allows your feelings to develop and grow as you sympathize for the main character Billie Jo and her family. Even though Out of the Dust is set less than a century ago it feels like a very different world. The Depression was tough for a lot of people but the Dust Bowl was truly horrific. Often times when people think about such major tragedi ...more
Kristi Lamont
Mar 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
My God, what an incredibly powerful book.

Came across it in the back floorboard of my sister’s vehicle; one of The Precious Nephews had left it there instead of returning it to school after reading it as a class assignment. And I am so very, very thankful that he did.

As usual, I’m having a difficult time putting into words why a book moved me so. And, also as usual, I come back around to the concept of “fever dream.” It was as if I was living Billie Jo’s life in Dust Bowl-era Oklahoma for a while
May 21, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Middle Schoolers
Shelves: juvenile-fiction
This book is set in the Oklahoma panhandle during the 1930's. Preteen Bille Jo and her family struggle to cope with the loss of their farm, scarcity of food, and the endless swirling dust storms that dominate life in this setting. Then tragedy strikes; Billie Jo's mother and baby brother are killed in a sudden accident and Billie Jo's hands are seriously burned. Billie Jo's father withdraws into grief and depression while Billie Jo wrestles with her own guilt and physical disability. Ultimately, ...more
Bish Denham
Jun 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Tough read. But then the Dust Bowl was a tough time to live through. Moments in this story are very dark and depressing. But then the Dust Bowl was a dark depressing time. Through most of it I felt like I was eating dust. But then people who lived through the Dust Bowl really did eat dust. At least I only had to eat it while I read the story. Those who lived through it couldn't get away from it. Dust was their constant unconquerable bane and companion.

What I think this story is really about is t
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
It was unexpected but I really enjoyed this book. The format was surprisingly engaging and conjured so much emotion in so few words.
Kate Olson
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
FABULOUS. Plus the saddest book I have ever, ever read. Glad I finally checked it off of my Newbery list!
Jan 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was struggling, really struggling to figure out which dress I wanted to wear to a wedding this weekend, just as I finally cracked open Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust, to see if it would be an appropriate read for my 8 year old (it wasn't).

Well, I quickly felt like a flaky and flimsy fool. It's not that I don't know what happened in the 1930s dust bowl that was Oklahoma. I am, after all, a John Steinbeck devotee, but it was good to be reminded that people have done some serious suffering here on
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
I found this book when I googled "authors with the initials KH" for a little challenge in one of my groups. What a nice surprise! Ms Hesse took a fascinating piece of history and wrote a dark and sad story about a dark and sad time, and did so with a very unique style. She told the story in free verse through a young girl's entries in her journal. The book made me think of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, which is a very good thing as Steinbeck is my literary crush. It seemed like a book that co ...more
Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Wow - I picked it up because my neice Molly had written in a letter that she was reading it. I treated myself to a trip to the library on New Year's Eve when I got out of work several hours early and picked it up. When I paged through it, I wasn't enthused because it was written in poetic prose format. Didn't think I'd like it. I was wrong. It was a fantastic story and told in a remarkable way. Sadness, grief, frustration, hopelessness and then hope. Pretty heavy stuff for adults let alone fifth ...more
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Karen Hesse is an American author of children's literature and literature for young adults, often with historical settings. Her novel Out of the Dust was the winner of the 1998 Newbery Medal and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. In 2002, Hesse was a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship.

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“the way i see it, hard times aren't only about money, or drought, or dust. hard times are about losing spirit, and hope, and what happens when dreams dry up.” 57 likes
“And I know now that all the time I was trying to get
out of the dust,
the fact is,
what I am,
I am because of the dust.
And what I am is good enough.
Even for me.”
More quotes…