Out of the Dust

by Karen Hesse

At 14, Billie Jo sometimes thinks about leaving the parched Oklahoma Panhandle where... read more

At 14, Billie Jo sometimes thinks about leaving the parched Oklahoma Panhandle where her family still struggles to farm. She has always been a restless and now, in the midst of the Depression, the dust storms that blow across the prairie fuel her desire to wander. She imagines being in California, "where the wind takes a rest sometimes." But she has Ma and Daddy to ground her, and a fierce love for playing a wild piano to soothe her restless soul. Then a horrible accident kills Ma and the baby she was carrying and badly burns Billie Jo's hands. And though Daddy's body is unharmed, his life and his spirit seem broken. With nothing left to hold her, Billie Jo heads west, only to discover that her ties to the land and the people she left behind are stronger than she knew; strong enough to bring her home again. Karen Hesse's stunning narrative is comprised of brief vignettes written in Billie Jo's unforgettable first-person voice. Richly detailed and raw with emotion, her writing reveals both despair and hope, anger and forgiveness, and renders the land and nature as palpable as any human life. With much to discover between the gritty, poetic lines, this novel speaks with grace and aching honesty to the power of nature and, above all, the resilience of the human spirit. (Age 12 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 1997

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