karrie's corner's Reviews > Out of the Dust

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
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's review
Feb 08, 2009

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bookshelves: grades-4-5, newbery-winner, stories-drama, stories-historical

It's hard to believe that Oklahoma was a dust bowl in the '30s, because it doesn't seem to be that way now. Towns, buildings, population and changes in the environment seem to left the dust bowl, well, in the dust.

Billie Jo tells the story of her life as a young girl living during the Depression in the dust bowl. Her descriptions of dust outlining her body as she slept, being in her food as she eats dinner, and making her eyes feel gritty leaves the reader feeling as if you're there. The entire story is told in verse with quick yet detailed chapters. As I read this sad story, I couldn't help feeling deeply sorry for this young girl. It was bad enough to live where she did, but a tragic accident leaves her motherless, and physically scarred. Her passion for playing the piano becomes an exercise in tolerance, yet she maintains a level of hope and expectation that life will get better. By far, Billie Jo is the only character in the book who is not beaten down by circumstance and life.

This is a quick read, but I was left with a hollowness and a visual in my brain of vast open lands, sand storms and a place void of color, even though there is a respite from the drought. I wanted nothing more than for Billie Jo to have a life full of clean air, clean food and the lushness of a place where beautiful flowers grow amongst foliage, trees and regular rainfall. Her life evolves into one that is metaphorically lush, but her life will always be the same.
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