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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Audiobook Review: Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
Unabridged, 2 hr. 9 min.
Listening Library
Marika Mashburn (Narrator)
April 11, 2006
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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 read Out of the Dust for the first time in grade school – maybe 4th or 5th grade - and I remember being so absorbed in the book that I finished it in no time. It has been awhile since I read it and have been struggling to recall any details about the book – but I always had this lingering memory that I had really enjoyed reading it. That in and of itself says a lot – even if you don’t remember the exact details you know that a book touched your heart in some way and left an imprint there to be felt forever. I chose this book on audio this time because I wanted to see if the experience would be different – and I had unfortunately given away my copy of this book several years ago.

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.

If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out listening to this excerpt of the book?

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia 

Also by Karen Hesse:

Karen Hesse has written many novels, a few of these include:

the music of dolphins
The Music of Dolphins



Find Karen Hesse: Website | Blog

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Free verse, I just do not know about reading that, but then who knows. At least I can listen to the audio and see how that is :=D

  2. Great post!


  3. Blodeuedd - It really doesn't read like poetry tho - it really just reads like a story that looks like a poem.

  4. Thanks for a good review. Like so many other good books for that age, it was written when I was older than the target audience. I have made sure it is available for the kids to read, but haven't gotten around to it myself. I'll have to put it on my To Read List. Seeing events like this from a child's viewpoint brings it down to the basic elements and truths of the situation.

  5. Librarypat - It is a really quick read, if you have the chance to get to it I think you will enjoy it!


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