Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

I’m not sure what I thought this Newbery Medal winning book would be like, but Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse was not what I expected – in a good way!

In 1934-1935, Billie Jo is living in Oklahoma, in a terrible economic time.  There’s a depression and horrific dust storms that are tearing up the land, which is what her family lives off of.  How can crops grow when dust covers them?  How can crops grow without rain?

In the midst of this, Billie Jo’s mother is part of a horrific accident, and she is left alone with her father.  How will the two of them survive?

I love the format of this novel!  Out of the Dust is written in prose, as if Billie Jo had a diary that she wrote in, but in poetry form.  But don’t let that scare you away if you’re not a poetry fan!  It’s not written to rhyme, and it is easy to read.

Also, this is a young adult version of the adult depression world we normally learn about (like in Grapes of Wrath).

I recommend this book as a young adult read and also for adults, although it is a quick read for sure.

 Is the depression a subject you enjoy reading/learning about?


Interested in getting your own copy? Check it out on Amazon & IndieBound. I get a small percentage if you purchase from those links, and it doesn’t cost you any extra.


6 thoughts on “Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

  1. That book looks so familiar to me but I really don’t think I’ve read it. Maybe one of my kidlets did? Hmm. It sounds good! I’m reading The Boys in the Boat right now, it’s a nonfiction and it takes place during the same time. Dust bowl, Great Depression. What an awful time to live through!


    • Oh I’ll check out your thoughts when you finish. It’s a YA book, so maybe one of your kids read it, and you’ll speed through it if you get a copy. I like the Great Depression from the eyes of a child. And yes, that sounds like a tough, tough time to have lived through.


  2. I don’t care for the photograph of the child on the cover, taken from “Let us Now Praise Famous Men”. When she grew up she killed herself by taking rat poison. The use of her seems an unwarranted intrusion into a sad , short life.

    I have ordered it through Amazon


    • The author actually discusses the child on the front cover in the notes in the back of the book, but I fully understand where your issues lie. I was actually shocked and a little put off when I realized the child on the front was a real person, not a model for a book cover.


    • Yes! I actually was kind of shocked and then nervous thinking it’d be a tough read, but it wasn’t. It just ended up coming naturally to read it, and it helped that it wasn’t all rhyming for this kind of book.


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