Out Of The Dust (Newbery Medal Book)

by Karen Hesse

Hardcover, 1997



Local notes

Fic Hes




Scholastic Press (1997), Edition: 1st ed, Hardcover, 240 pages


In a series of poems, fifteen-year-old Billie Jo relates the hardships of living on her family's wheat farm in Oklahoma during the dust bowl years of the Depression.


Original publication date


Physical description

240 p.; 5.5 x 0.75 inches

Media reviews

Ms. Moore's Classroom
Could you imagine being in the great depression and being in dust! I read “Out of the Dust” by Karen Hesse. The narrator is Billie Jo Kelby. Her name sounds like a boy name because Billie Jo’s dad wanted a boy. This book is historical fiction written in poetry. The protagonist (Billie Jo)
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learns that she’s never going to get “Out of the Dust.” This story takes place in Oklahoma from January 1934 to December 1935. The protagonist is Billie Jo and Billie Jo is a “long-legged girl with a wide mouth and cheekbones like bicycle handles. She has red hair and freckles. She loves to play piano.”The secondary characters are Ma, Pa, Arley, and Maddog. The quote that she was long-legged was important because it describes Billie Jo. The page number was page 3 if you want to look at the quote when you get the book. In “Out of the Dust” the main conflict is Billie Jo’s ma died. Billie Jo accidently killed her ma by throwing a pail of kerosene on her that pa put next to the stove. After this event Pa and Billie Jo feel self-pity. The characters who are involved in this main conflict is Billie Jo, Pa, Ma. The quote to support the conflict is, “Daddy put a pail of kerosene next to the stove. Ma was fixing breakfast thinking the pail was full of water and she lifted it to makes daddy’s coffee and poured it, but instead of making coffee ma made a rope of fire.” This quote shows that the fire starts from the pail of kerosene. This quote was on page 60. The resolution was that later in the book pa married this girl named Louise. This solved the problem because Billie Jo doesn’t need to feel lonely anymore. The protagonist (Billie Jo) learns that no matter what, she will always have family by her side. The reader learned that living in the 1930’s in Oklahoma is hard. This book was really boring because it goes all over the place in the book. For example, it went from “A tent of pain” to “Drinking.”One connection from this book “Out of the Dust” is dust connects to “Esperanza rising.” It connects because dust storms are in each book. I think this book was humorous. For example they had a rabbit war, they shot rabbits. I think the weakness is that there is not enough action. For example the only action was when ma got burned. I didn’t like that it was written in poetry form either. Overall I think this book is humorous and not enough action so I would rate this book a 3/5 stars. 3/5 stars
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5 more
Ms. Moore's Class
Could you imagine being in the great depression when the dust bowls were going on? When you are only 14 and having your mom and baby brother die. The main character of “Out of the Dust” a historical fiction poetry story written by Karen Hesse is Billie Jo. The narrator of this story Billie Jo
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because it is written in first person. In this story Billie Jo (the protagonist) learns to live with the changes in her life. “Out of the dust” takes place in 1934-1935 in Oklahoma. The protagonist is Billie Jo she is very good at piano and she is “long legged and wide mouthed”. She is also very happy at times but then again depressed at times. She is also very smart. Some of the other characters are Ma, Pa, Arley and Maddog. The quote in the story that proves she is smart is that “she scored top in the eighth grade on state tests. I found this on page 30 In “Out of the Dust” Billie Jo faces the problem of Ma dying. Billie Jo accidently killed her Ma by throwing a pail of kerosene on her that Pa put next to the stove. The characters that were involved in the problem were Ma, Pa and Billie Jo. It said in the story “ Daddy put a pail of kerosene to the stove and Ma fixing breakfast thinking it was filled with water, lifted it, to make Daddy’s coffee but instead she made a rope of fire”. This quote was on page 60. Although the problem was solved! It was solved by another girl named Louise coming into Pa’s and Billie Jo’s life. This solved the problem because Louise took Ma’s spot in the family. For example she started to cook and clean for them. The protagonist (Billie Jo) she will always have family by her side. The reader can learn that living in Oklahoma in the 1930’s can be hard. This book was boring almost all the time in my opinion because it didn’t really have any action or exciting moments. It did have one suspenseful moment When Ma died but that was it. I made a connection to the book “Number the Star’s” when I read this because they both won Newberry awards medals, they both are written in first person by two 14 year old girls. They both took place during the 1930’s. The strengths of this book is that it creates a picture in your mind while you’re reading. For example when the fire happened you could picture it. The weaknesses are that it didn’t have enough excitement and the format was not good. It was just boring overall. I would give this book a 2/5 stars.
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Ms. Moore's Class
Has something bad happened to you like your getting covered in dust, you killed your own mom and the baby she was having? How about burning your own hands and your talent is gone? One more thing all of this happened and you and your dad feel like strangers? Probably not. Well a 14 year old girl
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named Billie-Jo did all of this. Billie-Jo is from the book “Out Of The Dust” by Karen Hesse. The main character is Billie-Jo and the protagonist is also Billie-Jo. Billie-Jo lives in the 1930s in the great depression or (dust bowl). No one wanted to be there at that time. Everybody during that time was sad ad really depressed. In the story the protagonist is the main character in this case its Billie-Jo. She is the protagonist because she’s good she try her best at things even though there were a few accidents. Another character is Billie-Jos ma and dad but ma doesn’t last very long. Billie-Jos dad tries his best, but didn’t really bother with her till the end again. Something that Billie-Jo always says is that “dads digging his own grave not a pond. That’s important because it seems dad can’t take the pressure that ma is gone. The main problem in this story is that ma dies and its dad and Billie-Jos fault. When Billie-Jo says dads digging his own grave not a pond, he’s doing that because to much stuff is going on it was easier with ma. That’s a big problem because that turns into little problems like Billie-Jo runs away. The solution to that is when Billie-Jo runs away and she learns where she had to be and where she belongs and where she belongs is home with her dad. So Billie-Jo called her dad and went back home. That’s also what Billie-Jo learned. What I learned from the book is that people belong with their family even if it’s a terrible time. People belong where they were bon where the people that love them are. My personal opinion about this book is PICK IT UP AND READ IT! It’s a great book its depressing but amazing. I give this book a 4/5. Another book I can connect it to is Esperanza Rising. I say that bok because some events happen like in both books there are dust storms and a lot of people are are depressed. What I liked was that there’s a really high climate and what I don’t like is that its kinda predictable so I give “out of the dust” a 4/5.
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Ms. Moore's Class
Have you ever thrown a pail of flaming kerosene on your mother? Had your hands fried off? Or even ran away? In “Out of the Dust” by Karen Hesse, Billie Jo does all these things. Billie Jo learns that she can’t run away from her problems. “Out of the Dust” by Karen Hesse starts in the
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August of 1920, Billie Jo’s birthday, but then jumps to the winter of 1934 in Oklahoma when Billie Jo is almost 14. Billie Jo’s father helps her realize the problem. In the book, Billie Jo says to her father “I can’t be my own mother and I can’t be my own father and if you both leave me what am I supposed to do?” This Quote by Karen Hesse on page #205 shows how Billie Jo realized the problem. The main problem in Out of the Dust is that Billie Jo’s mother dies and Billie Jo runs away, Out of the dust. The Quote “Getting away wasn’t any better, just different” by Karen Hesse on page #204 shows that when Billie Jo runs away, she realizes she should go back home. After Billie Jo runs away, she realizes she can’t run away from her problems. At the end, Billie Jo meets “The Other woman” (Pa’s new girlfriend) and begins to like her. The reader can take away that like Billie Jo, you can’t run away from you problems. In this book, some parts about just the dust are boring. And some parts are exciting. The exciting parts are suspenseful and you might even say action packed. This book is similar to Esperanza rising because it is in the same time and some similar events. In conclusion, I would rate this book 4/5 stars.
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(KLIATT Review, March 1999 (Vol. 33, No. 2))
Claire Rosser (KLIATT Review, March 1999 (Vol. 33, No. 2)) This novel has won just about all the possible prizes, including the Newbery Medal, so most of you must already know about it. This trade paperback edition is sturdy, with a picture of Billie Jo in a straw hat on the cover. It should hold
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up well for classroom use, which is a certainty. The story of tragedy, despair, and finally hope is told in poetry form, with Billie Jo as the youthful narrator, her story unfolding in chapters. The story begins as Billie Jo is 14 years old, with her parents barely eking out an existence in dust-choked Oklahoma in the 1930s. Her mother is pregnant, her father works stubbornly on their failing farm, and Billie Jo gets some joy out of playing the piano and earning some money. This life seems grim, but it gets even grimmer when an accident scars Billie Jo's hands and causes her mother's death. How she recovers from the pain and the guilt, and how she and her father remain on the farm, with the dust ever thicker, smothering them, is the struggle of the story. Students will be fascinated that Hesse tells this gripping, emotional story through poetry; and the form will inspire them and their teachers to explore poetry in their own storytelling. KLIATT Codes: J*--Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 1997, Scholastic Apple/Signature, 227p. 20cm, $4.99. Ages 13 to 15.
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(Booklist, October 1, 1997 (Vol. 94, No. 3))
Susan Dove Lempke (Booklist, October 1, 1997 (Vol. 94, No. 3)) Daddy came in, / he sat across from Ma and blew his nose. / Mud streamed out. / He coughed and spit out / mud. / If he had cried, / his tears would have been mud too, / but he didn't cry. / And neither did Ma." This is life in the
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Oklahoma dust bowl in the mid-1930s. Billie Jo and her parents barely eke out a living from the land, as her father refuses to plant anything but wheat, and the winds and dust destroy the crop time after time. Playing the piano provides some solace, but there is no comfort to be had once Billie Jo's pregnant mother mistakes a bucket of kerosene for a bucket of water and dies, leaving a husband who withdraws even further and an adolescent daughter with terribly burned hands. The story is bleak, but Hesse's writing transcends the gloom and transforms it into a powerfully compelling tale of a girl with enormous strength, courage, and love. The entire novel is written in very readable blank verse, a superb choice for bringing out the exquisite agony and delight to be found in such a difficult period lived by such a vibrant character. It also spares the reader the trouble of wading through pages of distressing text, distilling all the experiences into brief, acutely observed phrases. This is an excellent book for discussion, and many of the poems stand alone sufficiently to be used as powerful supplements to a history lesson. Category: Older Readers. 1997, Scholastic, $15.95. Gr. 6-9.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member erinbreland
I just want to start by saying this book was wonderful. The book begins telling of the life of Billie Jo Kelby. Billie Jo leads a charmed life up until the accident with her mother. Billie Jo is then left with this great amount of pain from the loss of her mother and her brother, Franklin after the
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president. Billie Jo becomes overwhelmed with the grief and the state of her father and she also can't bear the fact that she is unable to play the piano anymore because of the terrible shape of her hands from the accident. Billie Jo ends up running away from home and she thinks away from her problems but they happen to follow her. I never give away the ending to a book so I am not about to start now, but this is definitely a must read.
I think that this book is a must have in a classroom library and i think it can be used many ways. This book of course is a great book to read and a wonderful piece of literature but i think it would also be great to use in history class. The dust bowl era is a big part of American history and can be very educational but of course the teacher will have to weed out the historical accuracy and the lack there of. This book is passionate and also shows how hard it was for people during that time, and although Billie Jo was faced with unusual circumstances people during that time period really lived that was and had a very hard time.
I love this book and I would recommend it to anyone. I know that I always put that in my reviews but this book really is great and It doesn't take long at all to read and it really touched my heart and i would love for it to touch the hearts of my students one day.
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LibraryThing member aprilmcmullen
Out of the Dust is a historical fiction. This story takes place when the economy was going through its worse not only financially but also with a drought. The book is told through poems dealing with Billy Jo as she goes through this time with her family. She watches while everyone leaves her to
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move west to get away from the Dust Bowl. Also her and the family are expecting a new addition. But the Kelby's faces many tragedy events from losing their house, to losing her mother and also the unborn child. So Billy Jo is left along to face life on her own.

This is a interesting book to read and helps out a lot with dicussing the Dust Bowl with your class. I do not have any personal connections with this book but I would use it to help my students with their history.

I enjoyed and I would recommended to everybody especially those who loves history.
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LibraryThing member megan_henley
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse is the story of a young girl named Billie Jo Kelby, who is living during the difficult time known as the dust bowl. The story is told in poetry form as if it is Billie Jo's diary. Her poems tell the tragic death of her mother and baby brother as well as the burning of
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her hands. She writes poems of her love for piano and of her and her father's daily life after the painful death of the two loved ones in their family. With all of the struggles and hardships will Billie Jo and her father ever make it "Out of the Dust?"

This is a perfect book for a classroom to read when studying American history. Not only does it allow the reader to be aware of dust bowl, but it allows the reader to feel like he/she is experiencing the dust bowl with Billie Jo. Another great teaching connection that can be taken from this book is the fact that the book is written entirely in poetry form. This would help students to see different forms of poems and then be able to write their own about how they felt about the dust bowl period.

I really enjoyed reading Out of the Dust. Hesse's choice to write the book in poem format was a great idea. Not only did it make it a quick, easy read but a more enjoyable one as well. The writing was very descriptive and gave a vivid image of the dust engulfing everything it came in contact with. I would recommend reading this book along with any history class at any age. It actually helped me better understand the dust bowl and be able to write an essay on it for my college level history class just this week. I will definitely incorporate this book into my teaching later in life.
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LibraryThing member debnance
Billie Jo and her parents are struggling to survive. There is no money. The farm has had no rain. Worst of all, storms are blowing across the land, raining dust on everything.

And then, in the midst of all the suffering, comes tragedy: Billie Jo’s mother and tiny baby brother die in a horrible
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accident. A difficult life becomes impossible.

A grim, bleak novel, yes, but a novel that has stayed with me since I first read it ten years ago, a novel that is just as good the second time as it was the first.
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LibraryThing member PaigeMcIlwain
Out of the Dust is a novel depicting the life of Billie Jo, a young girl growing up in Oklahoma in the 1930s. Her father is a wheat farmer, and their family is struck by hardship as everything including the fields of wheat turn to dust. To make matters worse, an accidental fire threatens the lives
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of Billie Jo's mother and the baby forming inside of her mother. Billie Jo's hands are also affected by this fire - the hands that she relies on to play the piano. She finds happiness and hope in playing the piano; this may be her way out of the Oklahoma - out of the dust. This book is written in the form of poems and journal entries and takes readers into the heart of America and trajedy of the Great Depression.

This would be an excellent classroom resource. Teachers could use this novel to introduce lessons on The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Out of the Dust is short and simple and would keep young adolescents interested since it is written from the perspective of a young girl. Teacher could also incorporate the instructional strategy of using a timeline with this book. The chapters are divided into seasons and years. Students could chart specific events that took place in certain years and cetain seasons of the year. Students could also chart other significant events of the Great Depression; this would allow for comparison and contrast of events.

This novel helped me to better relate to life in the plains in the 1930s. I was never able to fully grasp the degree of hardship in this area simply by reading textbooks. Seeing through the eyes of a little girl in Oklahoma made the events much more impactful. Just like Billie Jo, I love to play the piano, and when she was prevented from playing, I imagined what it must be like to have that joy taken away with all the other precious things she has taken away. This was no light and happy book, but it was true to the time period and gave great imagery of what life must have been like; futhermore, as the book concluded, I was able to see a glimmer of hope returning to Billie Jo and the people of Oklahoma.
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LibraryThing member BrOoKe03
A young girl is born into a poor family in Oklahoma. Her father had hoped for a boy, but she was her father's daughter. Billie Jo loved to play the piano and was taught to play by her mother. They grew wheat, but the hard drought and dust storms made growing a crop almost impossible. Grabbing a
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pale she thought was water but turned out to be kerosene, her mother started a fire. She and Billy Jo fled the house, but Billy Jo went back in to get the pale so she could throw the kerosene out. When she threw the kerosene it landed on her mother causing her to catch on fire. Her mother was pregnant with Billy Jo's brother. The burns were so severe that during birth, her mother died and later so did her brother. Billy Jo's hands were burned so badly that she could not play the piano well any longer. As time went on, her father found someone who could make him laugh again, and Billy Jo learned to play once more.

This novel would be great for young children. It would be one to show that even through hardships, people can survive. The novel would also be a good choice for a history class in telling about the terrible dust storms in the 1930s.

I enjoyed the novel. It was very detailed, and I also liked the way that it was written. I would recommend this book for young kids; I would not recommend it for older kids, for they may find it less interesting and possibly too easy. I believe Hesse did a fantastic job in describing how difficult it was for farmers to survive in this area during this time period.
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LibraryThing member RomikaC
"Out of the Dust" is the story of Billy Jo Kelby and her family, who are farmers. The family struggles to make it, although times are hard a dust storm causes more problems for the family. Billy Jo's dad has a real connection with farming and takes pride in his land. Her mother not so much but,
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"made herself over to fit my father." Playing the piano is something that Billy Jo and her mother enjoy doing, and she hope to have a career in music. Tragedy strikes when Billy Jo's pregnant mother is burned and later dies after a house fire. Guilt strictened Billy Jo runs away but returns and regains the closeness that she and her father once shared before her mother and brother's death.

"Out of the Dust" is a tragic but enlightening story about the overcoming tragedy. Many lessons can be taught from this book, finding ways to deal with tragedy and death. Incorporating a research project having students to find information about 1934, what life was like compare and contrast now and then.

I really enjoyed this book, I found it enlightening. The love Billy Jo had for her family and father was undying.
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LibraryThing member BrittanyYoung
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse is a short story about a young girl named Billie Jo who lives in Oklahoma in the 1930’s. The story tells of how Billie Jo has such a masculine name because her parents thought that she was going to be a boy. As the story unfolds, Billie Jo accidentally throws a can
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of kerosene on her pregnant mother, which eventually kills her and her child. Billie Jo’s father becomes distant from her, so she runs away to escape the “dust” of Oklahoma. Will she ever return home, or will she stay out of the dust forever?

There are two major themes that are apparent in this book. The first theme, forgiveness, shows in the fact that Billie Jo is able to forgive herself, and her father is able to forgive her. The second theme, trust, is because Billie Jo’s father is finally able to trust her again, even though he has seemingly lost everything that he holds most dear. I would definitely teach these two aspects of literature to my students.

Overall, I liked this book. It was not great, but it was interesting. It was a quick read, even though it seems to drag sometimes. The story itself is great, as is the way that it is written. I would recommend this book to most everyone.
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LibraryThing member AllisonBates
1. Out of the Dust uses a poetic format to tell a story about a girl named Billie Jo Kelby, whose family is a victim of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl. With the depression reigning down on their family’s farm and a new baby on the way, the Kelbys have plenty to worry about even before a stove fire
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severely burns Ma. After Ma and the baby die, both Billie Jo and her father sink lower and lower into stagnant states of mind. Billie Jo can no longer play the piano due to her burned hands, and her father turns to drinking instead of nurturing his daughter who is still alive. Furthermore, spots on his face mirror those of skin cancer that his own father had. Eventually Billie Jo feels she can take no more of the pain, and tries to run away; she finally returns to face her father, however, and learns to forgive and accept him despite her lacking childhood. With a woman, Louise, in the picture when Billie Jo gets home, things may never be the same as before the Dust Bowl, but she now sees that times have potential to begin to be better.
2. Out of the Dust would be a wonderfully vivid way to do a cross content study of the depression, and most specifically the West. Research projects on the time period in conjunction with this book have endless possibilities. Students have the opportunity to get a very real glimpse of what a family would have gone through during the Dust Bowl. Discuss in class what other regions of the country were affected differently during the depression, and how these situations compared to Billie Jo’s. Since the book is written in verse, students also might be urged to compose “journal verse” of one of their own specific, every day experiences. Ask the students how reading poetry in a book format was different than a regular narrative? Do a writing activity on how they connected emotionally to Billie Jo through her poetry. Do they think a narrative would have been as effective?
3. When I first read this book in Junior High, I remember being very dispirited by the plight of Billie Jo, almost to the point that the book even bored me due its dull, bleak scenery and negative situations. Now, I see the importance of recreating the actual facts of the Dust Bowl’s truly depressing nature. In this verisimilitude of a stark reality that our country had to face, I see the significance of remembering what real life families went through. Karen Hesse’s research paid off; she used true events to shape an emotionally stirring basis for Billie Jo’s life, planting the reader smack dab in the midst of something they would probably never quite understand to such a vivid extent by just reading a historical text.
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LibraryThing member ShelbyJoMcKay
Billie Jo is a young girl that lives in the Oklahoma. The year is 1935, and it is dusty. She loves to play the piano like her ma, but is stubborn and lanky like her daddy. All of her siblings have died, and she is their only child. Her parents are so in love, but one day there is an accident in the
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kitchen with some kerosene and her ma gets burned badly. She doesn't quite overcome the burns and dies in childbirth; the baby dies too. How will Billie Jo and her daddy cope with all of the silence and dust left between them? All she can think about now is how to get out of the dust.

This novel was fantastic! I would read it with 8-10th graders. It was written in poems, and I think it would be very easy to do some exercises with in the classroom. I would have the children form their own, using the poems in the story as a guide. I think the strength and importance of family and home are wonderful themes in this book. Using these themes, I would probably give an essay assignment where the children would write about their own family life or "home".

I really liked this book. It was my first time to read it. It had great historical connections, and I felt like I was being smothered by the dirt just as much as this rascally author was. The people in this time period were so resilient to hardships; they had to be. After losing her mother, Billie Jo had no other choice, but to attempt filling her role and duties. Today we take much longer to grieve and complete the emotions of hardships we encounter. I think there is a very good lesson to be learned.
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LibraryThing member LindseyHerring
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse is a historical fiction book of poetry that tells the story of the life of Billie Jo Kelby. Billy Jo is growing up during the Dust Bowl. While Billie Jo's mother was pregnant, there was a terrible accident that caused her to be burned almost beyond recognition. When
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her mother had the baby, which was a boy, she died. The baby, which Billy Jo named Franklin, died shortly after. The stress from the accident and the death of her mother and brother caused Billy Jo and her father to have a bad relationship. Billy Jo later runs away but after a meeting with a homeless man, she decides to go back home and work on fixing her relationship with her father.

I think Out of the Dust would be a good book to use when teaching a lesson about the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. The book offers insight on how people's way of life was back then and may allow students to visualize the situation better. Also, since the book is written in poetry, teachers could tell students to create their own poems about the book or their reaction to the story.

This was one of my least favorite books of the semester. I found it very hard to get into and I was pretty bored while reading it.
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LibraryThing member AshleyMarkeitaTate
In what seems to be her personal diary, fifteen year old Billie Jo describes her hardships of life growing up on a farm in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl years. She began by describing how badly her father wanted a son, hence her name, but had to settle for her. Billie Jo has a great piano playing
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ability that she inherited from her mother, but her life gets very hard very fast. After a horrific accident, she loses two family members and is left trying to cope and pick up the pieces.

In my opinion, this would be a great book to use in a history class. With all the vivid details of the constant dust storms and just in general the life of the family on their failing farm, students would just get a great sense of how difficult life really was during that time. Students could discuss how they would or would not have continued to invest their time & resources into planting the wheat, or weigh the option of moving West to try to do better for themselves.

Much more than I initially believed I would, I really enjoyed the story. It did not feel like a huge poem; it seemed more like we were getting a peek into Billie Jo’s personal diary. The story flowed so easily that I ended up reading the entire book in about two and a half hours. I went through so many emotions while reading. From joy (at her being able to play the piano so well and everyone having so much faith in her to reading about her crush on Mad Dog), to sadness (for all the loss she experienced), to anger (at her father being so mean to her—but I had to understand that different people deal with grief in different ways), I had them all. I would love for there to be a part two; Billie Jo’s story could only get better and I would like to know how she progressed.
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LibraryThing member JessicaMurphree
This book is about a family from Oklahoma. This book about what happened during the Dust Bowl and the Depression Era. This book won the John Newberry Medal. Billie Jo loves to play the piano. The only crop her father grows is wheat. Her mother loves her apple tree. Her mother is also expecting a
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baby boy.

I would definitely use this book in a high school history class. I would use this book as a enforcement for the Dust Bowl. This would be a good book for students to read to see how people made a living during this time period.

I would give this book a rating of a 4. Billie Jo' s mom made sure she made good grades in school. All her mother would say about this was she knew she could do it. This book is kind of depressing because after mom got burned by the kerosene; she died and so did the baby brother which Billie Jo named Franklin after Franklin D. Roosevelt. Billie Jo also had serve burns on her body. Billie Jo blames her dad for causing the accident. Billie Jo loves to play the piano, but after her hands got burned it is to difficult to play. The only crop they grow in Oklahoma is wheat. After her mother died, she really did not have anything to do with her dad.
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LibraryThing member WhitneyActon
This book is about Billy Jo, a young girl living amidst the Dust Bowl in 1934 in Oklahoma. On top of dealing with poverty and lack of food for her family, she endures a terrible accident, leaving her without her mother and a father that will not talk about it. She turns to the only thing that she
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can to cope with the pain, the piano. She must continue to live her life in the Midwest until she ultimately ends up leaving her home altogether.
I think that the first obvious teaching connection would be to connect the historical events that surrounded the Dust Bowl to the book. I think that scientifically as well as historically, readers should know the timeframe in which the events take place. Also, another thing that I would definitely point out to the reader is the genre in which the book is written. While it is obviously a historical fiction novel, I think that it is equally important to point out the poetry in which it is written. I would definitely make it a point to locate simile and metaphor in these poems, and make exercises for the readers to do as well.
I thought this book was very intriguing. I have not read much historical fiction since high school, so I definitely had to go back and look up everything that the book was talking about with FDR. It definitely reminded me of the book Make Lemonade. Both LaVaughn and Billy Jo are learning how to navigate through life on their own, as they face decisions that will change their lives forever. Even though the span of years is very different, we get a glimpse into both worlds through poetic verse, making the Dust Bowl seem a lot less boring than it did in history books.
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LibraryThing member AnnieGoodwin
Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse, is the tale of a young girl growing up in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl. Billie Jo's life is surrounded by dust and the only thing she can think of is getting out of the dust. Hesse's text tells Billie Jo's story in the form of poetry. Through poetry, the reader learns
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about the tragic death of Billie Jo's mother and newborn baby brother. The reader also sees insight into Billie Jo's failing relationship with her father and the land she lives on. Will Billie Jo ever get out of the dust? Read to find out!

Out of the Dust is an incredible way to read about American History and discover different areas of the country. Students who do not live in the midwest may struggle to find a connection between themselves and the lives of those affected by the dust storms of Oklahoma. However, this text offers a great opportunity for students to learn about different parts of American history without shoving it in their faces. A great lesson to accompany this would be on narrative poetry. Students could write pieces about significant parts in their lives. Furthermore, students could write how they would feel and the struggles they might encounter living in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. Another option would be for students to pick their own part of American history and write a narrative poem as if they were living through that particular era.

I think this was a great text. Since the story was written in poetry, it was a a quick read. Additionally, the information presented was not overwhelming. I feel that students would enjoy learning about history from this text, and would greatly benefit from its content. I also believe that the way the information is presented out of the norm, and students would welcome the change. I think this is a great text with a lot to offer in the classroom.
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LibraryThing member sdl149
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse is a story about a teenage girl named Billy Jo and her family’s struggle to survive and grow in the plains of Oklahoma during the middle 1930’s in the period of time called the Dust Bowl. In the beginning of the story Billy Jo is an extremely talented piano player
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but though an accident, she not only loses her mother and unborn baby brother but damages her hands which make even the easiest songs very painful to play. After the accident, she and her father start to grow apart which only adds to the difficulties that they are going through. Only time can heal her physical and emotional problems.

This book would be an excellent to use during the social studies that includes the Dust Bowl and all of solutions that the government implemented in order to help the struggling farmers. Another way that I would this book would be in literature. I could use it because it’s written almost completely in verse. The students could also write a poem about something that they find important in their life that also relates to the book.

Overall, I really like this book! I enjoyed the ending the most because recently I have been reading stories that do not have especially happy endings, which I really do not like. I loved that Billy Jo and her father started to become closer and that she got a new stepmother that was kind and that might be able to give her and her father the new family that they crave. I enjoyed Billy Jo’s relationship with Mad Dog. He was a character that I really enjoyed. I think that they should hang out more and realized that they are made for each other!
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LibraryThing member SarahCoil
Billie Jo is a young girl growing up in the 1930s during the Dust Bowl. Times are really hard for her family because they need rain so badly for their crops to grow. Billie Jo is very talented on the piano. She even begins to make a little money playing. This all changes when she has an encounter
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with a bucket of kerosene that hurts her hands and takes an even worse toll on her mother and soon to be sibling. Her father and her then spend time away from each other for a while until they start to understand each other again.

I would use this book in a history class. This book could be very beneficial to students learning about the Dust Bowl. They could make connections between their history book and this novel. I would also ask students to write about how their lives would differ if they were to live in this time period and what they would miss the most from the present.

I did not like this book. There was not a lot of action going on and history does not usually interest me. I would have liked it more if they would have talked about more of their emotions. I did like how Billie Jo and her father started to rekindle their relationship towards the end.
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LibraryThing member WhitneyD
"Out of the Dust" is a book written in poetry and diary form that tells the experiences of Billy Jo as a young girl. She lives in an area that is full of dust and has little rain. As her family struggles to survive on their farm, she struggles with identifying with who she is. Everything in her
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life changes when she loses her mother and baby brother. Her and her father must find a way to go on and find happiness. Through all of her experiences Billy Jo matures and realizes though it is hard to live on the farm, it is her one and only home.

One teaching connection is history. This book gives a very interesting view of how life was in the Dust Bowl in the 1930's. It shows how hard it was to live there. Also, being from a young girl's point of view, it is very easy to relate to for young readers. A second teaching connection is the form of the book. This book is a very interesting way to read poetry. It contains many different forms and types of poetry. However, it does not read like poetry, so it would be good for students who do not like poetry to read this story.

I liked this book. I love reading books written in the form of poetry. It is very interesting to me. Though this book is very sad, I found it very interesting to read. I would read this book in a classroom.
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LibraryThing member MalloryBatson
This book is about a girl named Billie Joe who is living in Oklahoma during the dust bowl. This era was a very difficult time for people because so many people were farmers, so everyone was struggling to survive. One day, Billie Joe's dad leaves a can of kerosene by the stove, and her mother
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mistakenly thinks it is water. She uses the kerosene to make coffee, which results in a fire. They run out of the house, and Billie Joe runs back in to remove the kerosene. She throws the can out, and it lands on her mother. Her mother goes in flames. Billie Joe attempts to save her mother and unborn brother. Her mother never looks the same, and Billie Joe struggles to recognize her. Her mother dies while giving birth. A few days later, the newborn baby dies. Billie Joe names him Franklin after the president. After the deaths, Billie Joe and her father drift apart. They barely speak, so Billie Joe runs away. She comes across a homeless man who gives her a picture of her family. At that moment, she realizes what she needs to do, so she returns home to her father. She calls him daddy again for the first time in a long time, and they reunite. Her father has met a new lady named Louise. Billie Joe is very fond of her, and her dad later marries Louise. Billie Joe is very happy when the dust bowl ends.

Two important themes to be discussed from this book are life in the 1930s and the Dust Bowl. This book is set during the 1930s, so ways of life were completely different than they are now. Therefore, this book provides a perfect opportunity for teachers and students to discuss how much different life was back then. Students could compare and contrast all aspects of life including jobs, housing, communication, and travel. Another important topic from this book is the Dust Bowl itself. Many people during the 1930s were farmers. Therefore, the dust bowl was a very difficult time for these farmers. Crops could not survive; therefore, families had little or nothing to eat. This topic is very important to discuss because it is a very significant time in our country's history. Teachers should be able to discuss with students how great an impact the Dust Bowl had on people's lives.

Overall, I was not a big fan of this book. I felt like there was almost no point to the book. I did enjoy the poems throughout the book, and I liked the fact that this book tells a story from the past that could have been true. Many people lived during the Dust Bowl, so it was neat this book helped the reader put himself/herself in Billie Joe's shoes and realize what life was like then. This book mildly reminds me of The Grapes of Wrath only because of the time period the book takes place. Although I did not enjoy this book very much, I would still have it in my classroom library because the fact that it relates to a significant time in our country's history is important. I also feel like this book would be great for a social studies class because this book would be still be more interesting and fun to read than a textbook. I feel like this book would be appropriate for middle school aged students.
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LibraryThing member KelliSingleton
Out of the Dust is about a 14 year old girl named Billie Jo. Billie Jo is the only child. Her dad works on their farm, raising crops. His crops have trouble surviving because of all the storms. Billie Jo’s mother dies after Billie Jo accidently pours kerosene on her. Billie Jo blames herself for
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her mothers death. Polly, Billie Jo’s mother was pregnant at the time of her death. Billie Jo also loved to play the piano, but had to stop for a while because how bad her hands were burnt. Billie Jo and her dad don’t have the “best” relationship. After her mother died, Billie Jo escapes and goes west. She returns and finally forgives her father.

The main theme in this book is togetherness. Don’t run away from every bad thing that happens to you, live through it and be strong. Don’t run from it, it will still be there when you return. I think those are some strong lessons that this book can teach someone. When you are going through a hard time, you need those who really matter. A great teaching connection would be teaching the great depression and the 1930’s. How much things have changed, past and present. You could also teach this book in literature, and discuss the poems.

I did not really like this book. I thought it was really neat because it was written in poetry, but that was the only thing I really liked about it. It was real boring to me. I am not a history person.
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LibraryThing member Bogle3
In Out of the Dust, Billy Jo Kelby is the main character. She talks about her family and living during the dust storms. Which is during the Dust Bowl. In the book, he father longs for a son. Her mother is pregnant and one morning is cooking. Her father leaves a can of kerosene on the stove,
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thinking it is water she went to make coffee and sets the stove on fire. The mother and Billy Jo run outside, Billy Jo then runs back inside to throw the kerosene outside to get it out of the house. Instead she throws it on her mother, not knowing she was running toward the house. Her mother catches on fire and they try to mend her wounds. Later her mother dies from having the baby and the baby only lives for a few moments. Billy Jo names the baby because her father cannot speak. The dust bowl was a difficult time for many families and many families had to go through many hard times. The dust storms caused damage to peoples homes and to people's health. Since her father was very upset about her mother and the baby dying they began to grow apart, so she ran away. She eventually came back. She found that her father had someone come and sit with him, later her married this woman. Billy Jo talks about how her life was a pretty tough life, but that she is happy that the dust storms are gone and her father is alive.

This book would be a good book to use in a middle school classroom especially because of the historical reference. Teachers can pull the Dust Bowl out of this book, obviously. They can talk about how the Dust Bowl effected many lives and how the people had to adjust to the Dust Bowl. Another thing that teachers can get out of this book is the poetry. The author uses poetry to communicate with the reader. The teacher can talk about the certain poems that she uses in the book.

It took me a little while to get into this book, but when I did I really did like it! The story was great and I felt really sorry for all the families that had to go through this. I guess people do not really think about what really happened back then till they read something like this and then it in some ways shocks them. That is how I felt about this book.
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LibraryThing member Nicole.Virden
Out of the Dust is a book about a fourteen year old girl named Billie Jo who loses her mother and baby brother and along with that she loses her desire to play the piano. Her father will not talk about her mother being gone and really wont talk much to Billie Jo at all. She feels like she is living
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alone at her house. She gradually starts playing the piano again here and there. Because she feels so unloved by her father, she decides to run away and while she is gone she meets a man who has left his family and she realizes she wants to go back home. She is able to resolve things between her father and begin to build up her relationship with him. Her father meets a new woman and their lives begin to come back together.

I would definitely use this book if I were to teach a Middle school classroom. In teaching this book, I could talk about symbolism. The word dust is used numerous times in this novel and most times it is used with a negative meaning. Every time this word is used, it is when Billy Jo is crushed again by something or someone. Also, it is used when she loses someone or when someone dies. Students could talk about what the deeper meaning of this word could be or why the author uses this so many times. They can also talk about the symbolism in the piano. The piano is really the only comfort she finds in the loss of her mother. This is because her father does not try to comfort her until the very end of the novel.

At first I did not enjoy this book because it seemed like one bad thing after the other happened. But after I finished it, I loved it. It is not a book that I would normally read. I love how much was taught about life to Billy Jo. She had to learn a lot of things the hard way but every thing came together. I love the end, when she and her father begin to grow together and he assures her that he will not leave her. This novel reminds me of the novel Because of Winn-Dixie because it is about a father and daughter who really do not have a good relationship, but through some circumstances, they come back together and mend things.
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LibraryThing member JasmineW
The novel Out of the Dust was written by Karen Hesse. The book won the Newberry Medal award in 1998. It is about a young girl name Billie Joe, who struggles with living during the dust bowl. Something happens to her mother during the novel as well as something happens to Billie Joe. The common love
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and characteristic she and her mom had was playing the piano. The story continues to portray the life and time of the dust bowl and how it affected her family. Their wheat crops failed in the 1930s, in Oklahoma, because they had cleared out all of the grassland. Will Billie Jo and her family be able to rise above their misfortunes, or will it tear them apart? You must read to see!

The first idea I would use is for a history class. The book talked a bit about the Great Depression in the 1930s, so I would want my students to do some research on the Great Depression. The students will take their research to write a paper (3-4 pages) and must include the following in paragraphs: what was the great depression, causes of the great depression, the turning point and recovery, and its effects in one country of their choosing (Chile, Canada, Australia, Germany, or France). TSW turn this in for a grade. The next idea I want to use with this book is for my students to write a poem based on the history and research they found about the Great Depression. The student can pick a poem out of Out of the Dust that speaks about history or that relates to the Great Depression. Once the student does this, he or she will construct their own poem. The poem can be no longer than one page. The student should include at least 2 terms used in the poem they read for this assignment to show text based evidence. The student is to pretend that he or she is speaking, as if, in the 1930s. So, basically, the student is writing a poem about the Great Depression (using 2 terms from a poem in the book) and making sure the tone and language is set in the 1930s. When reading the poem, as a reader, if I knew nothing about the Great Depression or what happened during that time, the poems should explain, describe, and inform me of the events that took place. We will share the poems in class. Good luck and let's write!

I enjoyed Out of the Dust. I will use this book in a middle school history classroom. I believe that it will be a good book to use if teaching about The Great Depression or just the 1930s era. The student's should enjoy the book that is told in poem form. It's short and most importantly easy to read. I rate the book 3 1/2 stars. I will encourage teachers to add this book to their classroom library. Great book!
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LibraryThing member RR16
this book is about a girl who lives in the middle of no where and the dust storms are very bad she trys and trys to help her faimly on top of her blisterd hands but she loves playing piano and to get out of the dust
LibraryThing member elslibrary
Written in a prose style, Billie-Jo tells her story of the hard times on her families Oklahoma farm. Her piano playing offers her respite and she works hard at school to make her withdrawn mother proud. After a horrific accident, she loses her mother and her baby brother. Her father slips
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into depression and the dust continues to take its tolls on their attempts to grow wheat. In desperate measure she leaves home trying to flee the sadness, the dust and her past. She soon recognizes her true place is with her father and she returns. They rebuild a relationship and together mourn their losses. Her father is befriended by a woman and slowly Billie-Jo accepts a new person in their lives and home. She gets back to the piano and they replant to try to beat the dust.
Personal Reaction:
I was very moved by this fast moving tale of the Dust Bowl era. Billie-Jo tells of her despair sincerely and you feel her pain from the accident. The time away from home allows her to grow and she comes to peace with her reality. Her return to the farm sparks her relationship with her father and together they both change their outlook. The father starts to try some new things and Billie-Jo gets some medical attention she needs for her deformed hands. It somehow turns hopeful but I never felt that it all turned out too unrealistically cheerful. They was true gratification from their perseverance that can through in the story. I really liked it.
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