Monday, September 9, 2013

MMGM: Out of the Dust

It has been a LONG time since I did a MMGM post! I decided to pick a book my good friend Amy (A.L. Sonnichsen) gave me to read, one that inspired her in writing her MG verse novel RED BUTTERFLY to be published by Simon and Schuster in February 2015. If you haven't read about Amy's book deal click here to check it out. And come back on Friday because we will reveal all the beautiful glory that is Author Amy, as I like to call her, in the head shots I had the pleasure of taking for the above-mentioned book. And we need help in choosing the best one!

Now for Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse.

Book Description (from Amazon): Like the Oklahoma dust bowl from which she came, 14-year-old narrator Billie Jo writes in sparse, free-floating verse. In this compelling, immediate journal, Billie Jo reveals the grim domestic realities of living during the years of constant dust storms: That hopes--like the crops--blow away in the night like skittering tumbleweeds. That trucks, tractors, even Billie Jo's beloved piano, can suddenly be buried beneath drifts of dust. Perhaps swallowing all that grit is what gives Billie Jo--our strong, endearing, rough-cut heroine--the stoic courage to face the death of her mother after a hideous accident that also leaves her piano-playing hands in pain and permanently scarred.

Meanwhile, Billie Jo's silent, windblown father is literally decaying with grief and skin cancer before her very eyes. When she decides to flee the lingering ghosts and dust of her homestead and jump a train west, she discovers a simple but profound truth about herself and her plight. There are no tight, sentimental endings here--just a steady ember of hope that brightens Karen Hesse's exquisitely written and mournful tale. Hesse won the 1998 Newbery Award for this elegantly crafted, gut-wrenching novel.
Why it was Marvelous: I have read quite a few historical novels lately and I find myself intrigued with the fact that people in general lived so very differently than we do now. And for them, it was just the way it was... and they worked through their hardships and moved forward. I think that is what I liked most about this book. Bllie Jo is tough and while nothing is remotely perfect in her life, she perseveres. 
I also really liked the style of verse writing in this book. I have read a few novels in verse but this was the first one I really "got" the impact verse can have on a story. After I read this book I tried to write a scene in verse and found I really liked it... and plan to complete a manuscript in verse as well. I'm 800 words in, not much yet but a start. 
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (MMGM) was created by Shannon Messenger. To find other bloggers participating in MMGM go to her blog for a list of links.


  1. I like the same thing about historical novels, though I don't read many of them. This one sounds really good. Thanks for sharing about it.

  2. I've heard of this book before but haven't read it. But it sounds like one I'd really enjoy!

  3. Wow, a manuscript in verse. I'm very impressed. That would be extremely hard. Good luck with it!