Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

May 15, 2012

I distinctly remember the first time I saw this book. I was probably 14, which means the book was close to new. I was in our (very small) local library. The book was on display. I picked it up, opened it, saw the format (a collection of poems), and snapped it shut with the thought, "Why would they give the Newbery to something like this? something that has no plot?" (As a side note, I have to say I'm impressed I even thought of giving it a chance since I think this is quite possibly the ugliest book cover I've ever seen. First of all, the photograph, while authentic, is not a believable Billie Jo. There's no way that girl is 14 years old, irregardless of the fact that she is not tall and her hair may or may not be red. Also, I was more than a little irritated to see this credit on the jacket flap: Jacket design by Elizabeth B. Parisi. You mean someone was actually given credit for coming up with the worst book cover in Newbery history? You mean slapping an (inaccurate) photograph on the front and tacking the title above it in a very nondescript font earns you the right to have your name forever tied to this book? Shameful. Sorry for the rant. Just had to put that out there because I'm sure that terrible cover is deterring many a young girl from reading this fabulous book.)

And as to the book itself? So wonderful I can't even describe it. I didn't even know I liked free verse. Turns out, I do. A lot. It brought the characters to light in a completely new and totally vivid way. In between readings, I would have phrases repeating themselves in my mind almost like the lyrics to a song getting stuck in your head...but in a delightful, memorable way. I loved learning more about the Dust Bowl, and I loved Billie Jo.

My very favorite line in the whole book was from the poem entitled "Hope" where she said "the earth remembered how to yield." Maybe it was just because she had set up the imagery of this barren land where everything was so dried out and nothing could grow, but that line has stayed with me more than a week after finishing the book.

If you have not read this book, you are missing out. Don't let the format scare you. There is definitely a story line with characters you grow to know
and love. Writing this makes me want to go back and read some parts over again before I return it to the library. Very memorable. Very worthwhile. Very enjoyable.

This review was written before the birth of this blog. 

1 comment:

  1. I laughed so hard at this review! I agree. Worst book cover ever! It definitely took me a few years to open it and enjoy the book.


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