Apple Signature
Scholastic Inc.

January 1999

$12.99 AU

227p pb

ISBN: 978-0590371254

fp October 1997

UK edition

Frances Lincoln

August 2007

$5.99 UK

237p pb

ISBN: 978-1845076085

Out Of The Dust: a novel

Karen Hesse

from the book...

from the US edition

A terrible accident has transformed Billie Jo's life, scarring her inside and out. Her mother is gone. Her father can't talk about it. And the one thing that might make her feel better - playing the piano - is impossible with her wounded hands. 

To make matters worse, dust storms are devastating the family farm and all the farms nearby. While others flee from the dust bowl, Billie Jo is left to find peace in the bleak landscape of Oklahoma - and in the surprising landscape of her own heart.

from the UK edition

Told in free verse in the spare and haunting voice of 14-year-old Billie Jo Kelby, Out of the Dust is a journey to the heart of a family caught in the Oklahoma dust-bowl. It is the story of Ma, who sees the idea of herself burn away with every parched day, until she herself is consumed by fire. It is the story of Bayard, her husband, who cannot comes to terms with his failure to provide for his family. But most of all, it is the story of Billie Jo who knows she must find a way to get out of the dust, even if it means leaving behind everything she has ever loved.

If you have read this verse novel and would like to share your opinion of it with other readers please send your review or comments to YARR-A

Karen Hesse, author of verse novels such as Aleutian Sparrow and Witness, sets her novel in the early 20th century and has managed to capture the true emotions and feelings of an adolescent (Billie Jo) suffering from the realities of living in a lower-class family in the middle of a drought and the depression. While many verse novel authors write about teenage problems such as anorexia, depression and relationships, Hesse has tackled a different and interesting perspective – focusing on living life through excruciatingly tough times, resulting in a tear-jerking yet so realistic and believable read.

Meet Billie Joe, a typical, ordinary American girl. She loves her family, she supports them however she can, is hard-working, smart and has a passion for playing the piano. Her family – consisting of herself, her quiet, yet loving farmer father, and her mother, are living a hard life in a farm in mid-south America – in the dust bowls of Oklahoma. In a freak accident, her mother is badly burnt, and her long awaited baby brother died as a result. This makes the book much more tragic as the author has already built a strong foundation of the unfortunate events the family has suffered.

Like all verse novels, this is another book where the words can jump out of the pages and connect with the reader. This is because of the author's use of subtle and daunting vocabulary. Out of the Dust is a perfect novel for readers wanting to read about recent American history and the real life events that happened to people in the not so distant past.

Jason, Year 10, Canberra, Australia

The book Out of the Dust is by far the best book I’ve ever read. I couldn’t put it down. I choose the book to do a repot on because I am so eager to present it. I would recommend anyone who can read to seek out this book. Even though you might not be able to relate to it, you can totally see yourself in the situation Billie Jo was in. I cried so hard my eyes turned red. If you are looking for a good book, choose this one. You’ll thank me later.


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