“Out of the Dust” – A Newbery Award Winning Book

In order to have more of backdrop about the Great Depression for Grandma Leora’s stories during those years, I hunted for books. I really wanted Iowa stories, or at least ones that reflected the Midwest. Most of those dealt with how hard it was being part of a farm family in those days. Like my father’s family. But farm families weren’t hungry.

Where were stories about families living in small towns?

There are plenty of scholarly tomes, complete with statistics, but those just didn’t satisfy what I was searching for. I ended up with children’s books. There’s a series by Crystal Thrasher, about a girl from a needy family “coming of age.” They were okay, but still not what I was wanting.

Though unusual and not set in the Midwest, Out of the Dust is satisfying. Unusual because the entire story is written in free verse. It won a Newbery Award in 1998.

I’d even written a short review of it on Amazon: “A expressive and spare journey through the physical and emotional obstacles of a young teenager living through terrible losses during the Great Depression. I’m writing the stories of my mother’s family when she was about the same age. The gaunt unrhymed poetry expresses that bleak era of our history so well.”

The photo on the cover is by Walker Evans, hired by the Farm Security Administration of FDR’s New Deal to record efforts to help tenant farmers and sharecroppers. “Daughter of a cotton sharecropper, Hale County, Alabama, about 1935.”


  1. I recall liking “Out of the Dust” very much, though I also recall it being sad. We just read her “Letters from Rifka” in my 5th and 6th grade class- I really need to track down more of her writing.
    If you don’t mind using children’s literature, the “Dear America” series might be worth looking into. We have at least one Depression era book on our shelves, ( Christmas After all: The the Great Depression Diary of Minnie Swift) set in Indianapolis, Indiana (so not rural, but at least a little closer to the Midwest!)

    • Children’s books are the quickest way to get into a new subject. I’ve run into the Dear America series. Now you’ve got me to wondering which one. Thank you, dear. This will come in very handy with for my granddaughter. I’m thankful she already loves books!

      • That’s a blessing- I hope she likes them! I’ve enjoyed all of the series that I’ve picked up – not as many as I should. I’m thinking that this summer needs to include lots of reading.

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