Hesse's book didn't disappoint me - the poems are beautiful, and haunting, and describe a time and a place (Oklahoma's panhandle in the early 1930's) so well that I really felt transported. The things that Hesse writes about - dust, over and over again, throughout the book, gritty and heavy and so pervasive - but also pregnancy, horrible accidents, rain, apples, music, and the longing to run away - they really tell a very powerful story. In that respect Out of the Dust reminded me of those intertwined stories in the Spoon River Anthology. And Billie Jo? She's more than a little like an older Caddie Woodlawn, with her red hair, different conflicts with her parents, and her independent nature.
I do think that Out of the Dust is better for kids on the older edge of the Newbery award readers - like a few other books I've read recently (like The Birchbark House, and A Thousand Splendid Suns), the sudden death and grief in Out of the Dust are not "easy" topics, for either adults or kids.
But the beauty, redemption, and hope (in all of the books above, actually) make them so worth it.
It almost rained Saturday.
The clouds hung low over the farm.
The air felt thick.
It smelled like rain.
That was all.
November 1934 (p. 88)