The School Library Journal's Top 100 Children's Novels #76
Title: Out of the Dust
Author: Karen Hesse
Genre: Children's Fiction (10 and Up); Historical Fiction; Poetry
Awards: 1998 Newberry Winner
The Recipe: Growing up in Oklahoma during the Great Depression, 14-year old Billie Jo faces the horrors and tragedies of life and death amidst the turmoil of the Dust Bowl.
The Frosting and Sprinkles: I was pleasantly surprised by how well Hesse develops a plot and characters through free verse poetry. I'm not usually a huge fan of free-verse, but I definitely see why Hesse won the 1998 Newberry. It takes a talented writer to develop such a harrowing and beautiful story in such few words.
Her prose is powerful and had me in tears through most of the novel. She puts her main character, Billie Jo, into a deeply tragic plot, but her writing is what invokes the emotion.
You know I love redemptive themes in books and this one is definitely one of those books! Though Billie Jo's life is tragic, the novel is full of hope in the depths of despair and a beautiful story of her redeveloping a relationship with her father.
Out of the Dust is not the typical novel I enjoy and I probably would not read it again because it is so tragically sad, BUT I liked it for it's hopeful and redemptive themes and I appreciate Hesse's talent.
The Hair That Fell Into the Batter: Like I mentioned before, I am not a huge fan of free-verse, but I can appreciate it when it is done well. I think Hesse did it well.
There are graphic and harrowing scenes of tragedy-I don't love these in children's novels, but to each his own! Just beware when you let your kids read this-especially if they are afraid of fire.
4 Out of 5 Cupcakes!