Book: Out of the Dust

By Karen Hesse


Historical Fiction


Billie Jo is a teenager living in the time period of the Dust Bowl. She lives with her father and mother. Billie Jo was an only child, because all her other brothers died when they were babies. She lives with her father, who always wanted a son, but got her as a child, and her mother, is now expecting another baby. Billie Jo hopes that this baby is the boy her dad always wanted.

She tries to live life as normally as she can, but soon, Billie Jo's dad leaves a pot of kerosene out on the stove, causing Billie Jo to accidently spill it on her mom, and causing her mother to die, giving birth to her baby brother earlier. Soon, her brother dies to, and Billie Jo is left with only her dad. And Billie Jo must decide- Will she go Out of the Dust, or remain in the dust with her father?



This story takes place in the Dust Bowl, on a family farm during the Great depression. Billie Jo lived in the state of Oklahoma, one of the main regions where the Dust Bowl occurred.


  • Billie Jo-A teen living in the Dust Bowl. She loves apples, and playing piano. She always wanted to go out of the dust, but was not sure if she should leave her parents.
  • Father-Billie Jo's dad, grieved by his wife's death. He tries to make Billie Jo as good as a son, but soon grows to love her as to who she is.
  • Mother-Billie Jo's mom is a professional piano player, and can lure even the most tired people out to listen to her play. She gets very hot-tempered towards the end of her life, but she still cares for her only child in the story.

My Opinion

Overall, I really like this book. Not only did it show the lifestyle of a person from a different time period, it showed the struggles many people faced during the Great Depression. I would certainly read this book again!


I would recommend this book to people who like reading Historical fiction books, books about the Great Depression, The Dust Bowl, or people who want to know what life was like for many children during these dark times.

Excerpt from the story

Beginning: August 1920

As summer wheat came ripe, so did I, born at home, on the kitchen floor. Ma crouched, barefoot, bare bottomed over the swept boards, because that's where Daddy said it'd be best. I came too fast for the doctor, bawling as soon as Daddy wiped his hand around inside my mouth. To hear Ma tell it, I hollered myself red the day I was born. Red's the color I've stayed ever since. Daddy named me Billie Jo. He wanted a boy. Instead, he got a long-legged girl with a wide mouth and cheekbones like bicycle handles. He got a redheaded, heckle-faced, narrow-hipped girl with a fondness for apples and a hunger for playing fierce piano. From the earliest I can remember I've been restless in this little Panhandle shack we call home, always getting in Ma's way with my pointy elbows, my fidgety legs. By the summer I turned nine Daddy had given up about having a boy. He tried making me do. I look just like him, I can handle myself most everywhere he puts me, even on the tractor, though I don't like that much. Ma tried having other babies. It never seemed to go right, except with me. But this morning Ma let on as how she's expecting again. Other than the three of us there's not much family to speak of. Daddy, the only boy Kelby left since Grandpa died from a cancer that ate up the most of his skin, and Aunt Ellis, almost fourteen years older than Daddy and living in Lubbock, a ways south of here, and a whole world apart to hear Daddy tell it. And Ma, with only Great-uncle Floyd, old as ancient Indian bones, and mean as a rattler, rotting away in that room down in Dallas. I'll be nearly fourteen just like Aunt Ellis was when Daddy was born by the time this baby comes. Wonder if Daddy'll get his boy this time?