Sally’s Rating: 4/5
Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust, more than any history book, depicts the dark, depressed mood and harsh lifestyle of the Oklahoma people during the Dust Bowl.
Taking place in the 1930’s, the story follows a young girl and her family’s struggles during the violent dust storms and droughts that plagued the country at the time. Billie Jo Kelby’s life becomes consumed by the promise of rain coming one day, but the world never gives her what she wants. After day in and day out of constant misfortune, death and despair, she sees her life as nothing but a dead end. She begins dreaming about finding a way to get out of the dust, even if it means leaving her loved ones behind.
While the story is very dark, the story is written in verse, which helps it not get too bogged down with all the death and depression that is present. If the story had been written in a normal narrative style, the darkness and utter despair would have been a lot more prominent – almost too much for a children’s book. Instead, the poetry allows the repetition within the story to enhance the misery of the main character while her hopes and dreams really shine through and give an ultimate message of hope.
Overall, Out of the Dust was an interesting way to present a dreary time in American history. This topic could easily be boring, but the author’s lyrical style makes it more interesting and exciting than a typical historical fiction book that covers this era. The poetry makes for a quick read while the plot covers issues revolving around family death and misfortune and highlights how one girl makes do with her lot in life. Out of the Dust is an inspiring, yet harrowing, read.