Billie Joe and her family suffer through dust storms and poor crops, but as a family, until the terrible accident that causes her mother to die. Now, Billie Joe suffers with her identity and relationship with her father and has to make the ultimate decision: to stay or to leave?
The first thing that caught my eye is that this book is written with narrative poetry. We are inside the brain of Billie Joe and what she is thinking. I believe that Hesse decided to write this way because she mentions that Billie Joe keeps her mom’s book of poetry on the shelf for show. Billie Joe wants to be like her mom and keep her memory strong. It is a different perspective–kind of like the very stilted narration given by Death in The Book Thief.
I like the theme of this book: comparing herself to different aspects of the farm. Billie Joe is like the wheat, her father like the sod, but they are both (and everyone else) the dust that envelops their lives during the 1930s. Hesse did a wonderful job of describing the hopelessness and the dust that mid-westerners had to deal with during the Dust Bowl. This would be a good, quick read if a history teacher wanted to use it for their Great Depression unit. Otherwise, I would suggest reading it with Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry because there are many similar themes and motifs (and they are both during the same time period, albeit dealing with different issues). I don’t see why sixth graders AND seniors can’t enjoy this book!