Out of the Dust

Written by:  Karen Hesse

A terrible accident has transformed Billie Jo’s life, scarring her inside and out.  Her mother is gone.  Her father can’t talk about it.  And the one thing that might make her feel better – playing the piano – is impossible with her wounded hands.
To make matters worse, dust storms are devastating the family farm and all the farms nearby. While others flee from the dust bowl, Billie Jo is left to find peace in the bleak landscape of Oklahoma – and in the surprising landscape of her own heart.

The summary is from the back cover provided by Scholastic.

This is a beautiful story about a young girl trying to balance between adapting to the devastating way of life the dust bowl thrust upon the midwest and not losing hope that there is a different, better future for her and her father. Billie Jo is wise beyond her years, but it is her heart she must listen to to reconcile the tragedy that befalls her family and her musically inspiring hands. This is a wonderful book that will pull you into a family’s struggle to find their way back to each other.

Discussion/Project Ideas:

1.  After the dust bowl, many changes were made to the landscape of Oklahoma to help prevent the devastation from happening again.  What were the changes, how long did it take to complete the changes, and who put the changes into action?

2.  There were three main medical issues in the story.  How were they addressed in the book in that time period and how would they be addressed now?

3.  During the dust bowl, people pulled together and helped each other in many ways, such as allowing strangers to take shelter in their homes when a storm blew in.  How do people pull together in today’s world when disasters, such as tornados, earthquakes, and tsunamis occur?

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