Genre: Historical Fiction, YA
Source: Downloaded audio from my local library
“When Billie Jo is just fourteen she must endure heart-wrenching ordeals that no child should have to face. The quiet strength she displays while dealing with unspeakable loss is as surprising as it is inspiring.
Written in free verse, this award-winning story is set in the heart of the Great Depression. It chronicles Oklahoma's staggering dust storms, and the environmental--and emotional--turmoil they leave in their path. An unforgettable tribute to hope and inner strength.”
I had never before realized that this book was written as free verse poetry – let me rephrase that – I never realized it was written as poetry – because let’s face it, I don’t know the difference between free verse and any other type of verse of poetry. Quite honestly I shy away from poetry because of bad experiences in school and I just don’t “get it” quite like a novel. If I had known originally this was a poem I might have not picked it up purely based on that fact alone. But I couldn’t tell this was poetry. It flowed just like any other novel would have for me. And listening to it, you did not see the form it was written in which would be more of an indicator. So don’t do what I would have done and put this off because it is poetry.
I have read some reviews that say this book might be a little over the heads of its target audience – which according to the publisher is ages 9+. I have to say I disagree with those reviews. You don’t have to really know anything about the Dust Bowl to get valuable information from this book or to enjoy it – I’m sure that I didn’t know about it the first time I read this book. The book focuses on the characters but really creates the world for you. You see the world through the eyes of a 14 year old girl and she describes how hard it is to keep the dust out of the house and how you had to chew your milk. I think these are images that a young reader would be able to imagine. You really get the sense of severity and real depression of these people. Even though it is sparse and you get just the details you need and nothing more – the words chosen pack a punch. This is really an exemplary sample of keeping concise and to the point and being effective at getting your point across.
The narrator chosen for this book sounds like a teenage Midwesterner which is a perfect fit for Billy Jo. The story is told through her voice in her diary so it really helps you to get into her head a little more. While I thought that the narration was wonderful, I do think that it might be a better choice to read this book in its printed version. As the book is written as her diary, you lose a little bit of the sense of time and connection to her diary. A diary isn’t usually read out loud so a little bit is lost in the art this time.
Author Karen Hesse also has written many other books of which Stowaway and Witness are YA HF. You can visit Hesse’s blog for additional information about the book.If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out listening to this excerpt of the book?
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