Monday, February 8, 2010

Module #4

Out of The Dust by Karen Hesse- Module #4

Hesse, Karen. Out of the Dust. New York: Scholastic Press, 1997.


Billie Joe has a very hard life full of unlucky breaks. One day at home, her pregnant mother mistakes a bucket of kerosene for water and accidentally sets a fire. As she goes out to get Billie Joe's father from the fields, Billie Joe tosses the kerosene out the front door, hoping to save the house from total destruction. Unfortunately, she doused her mother, who is returning from the fields. Ma gets set on fire and is never the same. Billie Joe's dreams of playing piano are also halted when she burns her hands trying to save her mother. Billie Joe's mother dies giving birth and then the baby dies as well. With the dust storms causing trouble and her father becoming more and more distant, Billie Joe runs away. After a trying week away, she returns home and begins to build a relationship with her father. Her life starts to look more hopeful.

Tattered Cover says:

This story, written in verse, was very interesting to read especially since I'm from Oklahoma. I grew up listening to the hardships

of the Dust Bowl days and was intrigued to read a story about life during those hard years.

How to use this in a library:

This book would be great to incorporate into a history lesson about the Dust Bowl years. It would be great to work together with the history teacher and really bring to life this time period by doing a book study.


Kirkus Review (1997)

Billie Jo tells of her life in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl: Her mother dies after a gruesome accident caused by her father's leaving a bucket of kerosene near the stove; Billie Jo is partially responsible--fully responsible in the eyes of the community--and sustains injuries that seem to bring to a halt her dreams of playing the piano. Finding a way through her grief is not made easier by her taciturn father, who went on a drinking binge while Billie Joe's mother, not yet dead, begged for water. Told in free-verse poetry of dated entries that span the winter of 1934 to the winter of 1935, this is an unremittingly bleak portrait of one corner of Depression-era life. In Billie Jo, the only character who comes to life, Hesse (The Music of Dolphins, 1996, etc.) presents a hale and determined heroine who confronts unrelenting misery and begins to transcend it. The poem/novel ends with only a trace of hope; there are no pat endings, but a glimpse of beauty wrought from brutal reality.