Billie Jo Kelby is an only child. Though she knows he loves her, she believes her father views her as a substitute for the son he really wanted. Billie Jo is a good student, but her true joy is playing the piano. Billie Jo's piano playing leads to a job with a local musical group and gives her the opportunity to bring home a little money for the family.
When her mother reveals that she is pregnant again, and the pregnancy seems to be going well, the family is hopeful. Despite the hardships of dust and the Great Depression, Billie Jo and her mother and father are a relatively happy family. However, tragedy strikes during an ordinary day. A bucket of kerosene, mistaken for a pail of water, leads to a terrible fire. Billie Jo's mother dies, and Billie Jo suffers serious burns herself when she tries to extinguish the fire with her bare hands.
She and her father must now face the grieving, the healing, and the Dust Bowl alone. Written in free verse as a poetic journal, this touching novel of loss, healing and returning joy after tragedy strikes vividly brings the Dust Bowl years to life.
Through Karen Hesse's vivid portrayal of the Dust Bowl, students will learn:
About the Author: Learn about Karen Hesse.
Background Information: Dust Bowl, open form poetry.
Vocabulary words used throughout the novel, utilizing a variety of activities to stimulate retention and growth.
Literary Techniques: Poetic devices, figurative language, onomatopoeia, structure, sensory images, poetic caesura, compare and contrast, symbolism, similes, metaphors, extended metaphor, personification, alliteration, consonance, assonance, repetition, dilemma, line structure, theme, dynamic characters, rhyme, conflict, double meaning, climax, resolution.
Moral Lessons and Character Values: Relationship, anger, generosity, the effect of our words, stewardship, blame, grief, freedom, forgiveness, coming-of-age.
Activities and Writing Assignments: Great Depression, history, mapping, class discussions, service project, farming, art, poetry, writing.
Suggestions for Further Reading: We include a wonderful reading list of more books by the same author(s) and other books that tie in with, or are similar to, Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse.
All of the unit lessons are written from a Christian worldview!