Friday, January 22, 2010

Year of the Historical/ Poetry Friday


Had to check
yesterday morning
to make sure that was
on the ground,
not dust.
But you can't make a dustball
pack together
and slam against the side of the barn, and
echo across the fields.
So I know
it was snow.

Out Of The Dust Karen Hesse

So, I wanted to read this for a few reasons:

1. It's one of Silvey's 100 Best Books for Children*

2. It's a Newbery winner! And won 80 bajillion other awards!

3. A lot of the schools that the kids I work with attend assign this, so I thought I should read it too.

So, if you're like me and haven't read it yet, it's a verse novel that takes place in Oklahoma in the Great Depression. Billie Jo likes apples and playing the piano. It's the piano that gives her most of her joy in life. Then, there's an accident that kills her mother and leaves Billie Jo's hands badly burned and mangled, making her unable to play.

I really liked the fact that while the Depression and Dust play a huge part of this book (it's a big part of daily life) it's not the actual focus of the book. The book is about Billie Jo learning to recover physically and emotionally from the accident. I also like that Billie Jo's family stayed in Oklahoma and didn't move west.

That said... eh. When this came out in 1997, verse novels were really new and cutting edge. But, there isn't a lot of poetry here. I can see why this book is assigned a lot and I can see why it won all the awards it did, but if it were to come out today, I'm not sure it would do the same.

Poetry Friday round up is over at Liz in Ink (hey did you know she wrote the Caldecott honor book this year, All the World)? How cool is that? Also, it's a poem, and as it is Friday...

*OMG. I typed "Best books for Children" in the associates search window for that link and the first hit was this. I threw up a little in my mouth. And died inside.

Book provided by... my local library

But, seems I'm talking about the Dust Bowl, let's work in another review!

Years of Dust Albert Marrin

This was a Cybil's nominee and a nonfiction book for middle grade readers about the Dust Bowl. I think it would pair well with Out of the Dust.

Most noticeably, it's visually stunning. There are many photographs, many of them full-page, of the time period, all in sepia tones that evoke the dust and landscape. I was most struck by the many photographs of huge walls of dust coming towards the photographer.

Years of Dust tries to be many things-- American history, environmental history and warning, science book about dust storms, coffee table picture book... and often, it's just trying to do too much and loses focus. I wanted it to do a lot less, so it would in the end, do a lot more. It's beautiful to look at, but a little "eh" to read.

I also suggest you read Debbie Reese's post about the book. Marrin does largely ignore Native Americans in his history of the American West. And, when he does talk about them, it isn't good.

Book Provided by... the publisher, for Cybils consideration

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Madi said...

Years of Dust looks good. I can see what you mean about Out of the Dust. I read it when it first came out and even used it in my 6th grade class a couple of times. I loved it then, but I'm not sure how well the "poem/novels" will hold up. They were quite the fad for a while but I don't see many new ones coming out these days.

Liz in Ink said...

Oh, I really liked reading these reviews. I love verse novels and they do sometimes get swept under the rug. No pun intended, dust wise.

(and thanks for the Caldecott cheer, too!)

Bill said...

Out of the Dust was one of the first "free verse" novels I read and was hooked from then on. Eileen Spinelli has a couple of really good ones, and All the Broken Pieces this year was good too.

Mary Lee said...

Be sure you check out The Dust Bowl Through the Lens. FABULOUS. I reviewed it here:

Julie said...

Thanks for the tip about Liz in Ink! I'm going to visit her blog since I am in Caldecott committee withdrawal. :) I tend not to like free verse novels too much but really liked Diamond Willow by Helen Frost and also Reaching for Sun by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer. Novels in verse can be so lovely (like those two) or fall very flat. But I guess that's true of any format!

Jennie said...

Dust Bowl Through the Lens is on display right now in the YA section. I'll have to snag it on Monday.

I loved Reaching for the Sun. I like the look of Diamond Willow (flipping through, it looks like the author has really played with poetry as a form) but haven't been able to read it because it's been really heavily assigned in my area, so it's never on the shelf.