Out of the Dust
By Karen Hesse

“Billie Jo threw the pail,” was what the town was talking about. Karen Hesse created Out of the Dust to show people how not only Billie Jo’s life, but how everyone’s life could easily change in the blink of an eye during the Great Depression. This magnificent story tells how this thirteen year old, Billie Jo, grew up in the great depression without her mother, and tried to find her passion for piano again. I encourage you to read Out of The Dust if you are into poems and adventure that describes the past.

In the panhandle of Oklahoma, there were many sick, poor, and dying people. The time period takes place duringthe Dust Bowl in the early 1900’s. The dunes were so high; most of the time people couldn’t get into their houses. The way Hesse describes the storms makes the reader trapped in the dust storm being suffocated, or doing the farm chores just like Billie Jo and her family when I read. The author made me feel sad when mama died, or miserable. The most important way the time period was shown was in the way they dressed. The women had long thick skirts, and the men wore pants all the time. Other ways to tell the time period is the old music, or the poor housing. People have shabby housing, but if you made good money you could have a better home.

It’s very hard to grow up in the Oklahoma panhandle during the Great Depression. When Billie Jo would go outside, she wouldn’t complain that there was no rain, and that it was dry, like other people. She also helped in the kitchen or on the farm, but she hated chores. Another example of how hard it is to grow up in the Great Depression is a major illness, dust pneumonia. Billie Jo fought through the illness, but her friend Grace passed away. You are probably thinking that’s not that bad; well, the dust storms are even worse. Out of the Dust describes the dust storms so well that it feels like you’re the one with sand in your eyes and down your throat. The dust storms in Oklahoma were so bad that people died in their own homes because the dust seeped though the windows. Billie Jo was very fortunate to have one of the better homes. Bi8ilie Jo’s dad was one of the fortunate people in the town to have better ground for his crops. Karen Hesse described Billie Jo so well that I thought I was Billie Jo.

There were many major events in Out of the Dust. The first event is Billie Jo giving up her piano passion, and then finding it again. Throughout Out of the Dust, Billie Jo searches for ways to find her passion for piano again. By the end of the story, she plays piano for someone else. The climax of the story is about how people survived the Great Depression, and the dust storms. One way the town survived the huge dust storms is by wetting down rags and stuffing them in the windows to keep out the dust. Finding food, since it was the Great Depression and farming was pretty much, non existent. When people ask, “did that really happen?” Absolutely because the Great Depression is a huge part in history. Look back at these events and learn from them, but I’m very glad I didn’t have to grow up in that time period.

Out of the Dust showed a lot of conflict. Billie Jo’s dad is always fighting against nature. “Papa,” Billie Jo says, “Why can’t you plant potatoes this year?” “Because potatoes will rot in our dry Oklahoma ground!” Billie’s mom has a different fight, one for her life. She was horribly burned from making coffee, and on top of that, she is pregnant. Mama ended up dying while birth to her stillborn child. Billie Jo was not only mad at her mom for leaving her, but at her dad for trying to make Billie Jo live with her aunt. This made Billie Jo so angry that she decided to run away from home. When she gave up and came home she found out her dad met a new woman. It took a while, but Billie Jo ended up liking Louise. Out of the Dust not only showed an abundance of conflict, but showed exa
Cover of the Book
mples on how to fallow your heart.

There were many themes in Out of the Dust, but the one that stands out is to fallow your heart. One example is Billie Jo trying to get past her mom’s death. She would sit at her moms the piano for hours and not play anything. After many hardships she learned that she was missing out on a monumental opportunity. Another example is Billie’s dad is afraid to let someone in his life again. Papa, is very afraid of losing someone he loves again, and when Billie Jo always asked the question, ”What’s wrong?”, Papa always shook it off. Instead of going with the flow, think of what you think is right, and that is what Billie Jo did; she followed her heart and played piano.

About the Author
Karen Hesse was born on August 29, 1952, in Baltimore, Maryland. Growing up, Hesse enjoyed writing poetry. After graduating from the University of Maryland, she worked as a librarian. After that job, other position involved reading of writing. She worked as a proofreader, a magazine editor, and as a type setter. She has been writing book since 1882. Her first book was Wish on a Unicorn, was published in 1991. Soon she wrote a book including, Letters from Rifka, Out of the Dust, etc.

Historical Background
Out of the Dust is set in the Oklahoma Panhandle between January 1934 and December 1935: thkaren_hesse.jpge Great Depression. High unemployment and low incomes were commonplace in Oklahoma and across the United States. Still life carried on and people found ways to enjoy themselves. One game they played was monopoly. Monopoly was first sold in 1935 and became America’s bestselling game. the prices for properties on the monopoly board are the same prices as they were in 1935.

I thought Out of the Dust was the most educational book on the Great Depression I have ever read. Out of the Dust shows many examples about learning to be yourself. Karen Hesse won alot of Newberry awards, and that’s why Out of the Dust is one of the books I recommend if you want to learn how people live during the Great Depression.

Karen Hesse. Out of the Dust. New York: Karen Hesse, 1997. Print. http://www.bibme.org/

Allie W.
Mr. Schuster-Language Arts
Edgerton Middle School
Edgerton, WI 53534