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Out of the Dust

Quick Glance



This is the total number of profanity incidents in this 240 page book.

*As personal standards vary, please see the breakdown to determine what matters to you.

Author: Karen Hesse
Key Words: Fiction, Teen, Historical Fiction, Newbery Medal

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Book Description:

This gripping story, written in sparse first-person, free-verse poems, is the compelling tale of Billie Jo's struggle to survive during the dust bowl years of the Depression. With stoic courage, she learns to cope with the loss of her mother and her grieving father's slow deterioration. There is hope at the end when Billie Jo's badly burned hands are healed, and she is able to play her beloved piano again. The 1998 Newbery Medal winner.


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Children's Bad Words

Mild Obscenities and Substitutions - 3 Incidents

shut up, darn, heck

Religious Profanities - 1 Incident

"every blessed thing"

Religious & Supernatural - None

Violence - 2 Incidents

A girl burns her hands: The doctor cut away the skin on my hands; it hung in crested strips…”

The mother was burnt and describes her.

Romance Related - 9 Incidents

Mentions a birth: “Ma crouched, barefoot, bare bottomed over the swept boards…”

A man puts his arm around a girl’s shoulder.

“Daddy gets soft eyes, standing behind her [mother] while she plays [piano]. I want someone to look that way at me.”

“Couples dancing, arm in arm, hand in hand.” A father and daughter dance.

The father is taking a night class and the daughter wonders if “he’s thinking more about the company of ladies.”

“If I had any boy court me, it’d be Mad Dog Craddock.”

"He didn’t come to court me. I didn’t think he had.”

“I’m too young and the wrong sex.”

“Dragging my back end around.”

Parent Takeaway

The main character is not a hero; she's not a person that you would look to as an example of noble character. This, I believe, was the author's intention - to show human struggle through incredibly difficult times. When there's a kitchen fire, the girl tries to help put it out by throwing the pail of kerosene out of the house ... but accidentally throws it on her mom. The mother (who was also pregnant) dies, and the girl has severe burns on her hand. The father, unable to cope, gets drunk one night. The rest of the story is the girl struggling with guilt, the lose of her mother, the lose of her hands, the hardships from the Dust Bowl era, and the distance she now feels is between her and her father. It concludes with forgiveness and the father/daughter relationship mending.

Attitudes/Disobedience - 11 Incidents

Two men are no longer best friends and scowl at each other.

A girl explains how she manipulates her mother to get what she wants.

A father gets mad so walks out of the house.

A girl plays music her mother doesn’t like and thinks it’s because she’s jealous.

A girl unhappily obeys: “all the while I glare at Ma’s back with a scowl foul as maggoty stew.”

Parents fight.

A girl is upset that people are blaming her for an accident and not her father (and who got drunk after).

“I can almost forgive him the taking of Ma’s money, I can almost forgive him ...getting drunk. But as long as I live, … I can’t forgive him that pail of kerosene left by the side of the stove.” (she later does).

Running away/Depressed: A depressed girl doesn’t want to say goodbye to a baby, so runs after the family that is moving away, asking them to take her too.

A girl is bitter about her mother’s death and her father being distant. She decides to leave home.

“I am forgiving him, step by step, for the pail of kerosene… I am forgiving myself for all the rest.”

Conversation Topics - 10 Incidents

The father goes and gets drunk after his daughter and wife are burnt in a fire.

A girl is upset that people are blaming her for an accident and not her father (and who got drunk after).

A girl says her father is a stranger - they are not close.

A girl doesn’t think her father will drink any more.

Mentions tobacco.

Mentions guys making moonshine and going to jail for it.

Suicide/dying: if her mother hadn’t of died, a girl thinks maybe she “wouldn’t be so eager to go [die].”

Mentions a dinosaur and a hundred million years.

A tramp admits to taking food from a kid again. He says he left home because he couldn’t feed his family, couldn’t stand the baby crying and his wife’s eyes following him.

A father almost commends his daughter for running away: “I dreamed of running off too, thought I never did. I didn’t have half your sauce.”

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