What's Going On Here?

There are SO MANY wonderful book review blogs out there and I can't compete with them, that is for sure. So this is not a book review blog. This is just a way for me to organize what I have read so that I can be better at matching the right book to the right person. The blog title comes from the brilliant mind of the most talented woman who ever lived, Ms. Judy Garland. The full quote is, "Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of someone else." That is what I hope to do here and in ever aspect of my life.

Friday, February 18, 2011


I was glad to have read The Worst Hard Time before reading Out of the Dust.  I don't know if I would have understood the magnitude of the suffering that people underwent during the Dust Bowl.  Hesse does a wonderful job describing the grasshoppers and the storms, the landscape, the drought, but maybe I wouldn't have believed it was as bad as all that.  Maybe I would have thought it was poetic license (as the book is written in poems) or maybe just the exaggeration because the story is told through the eyes of fifteen year old Billie Jo.  She was  teenager.  Maybe it just seemed to her that the sky was filled with grasshoppers, that the dust choked the very life out of people.  Knowing something about the Dust Bowl really helped me to understand the pain of this girl and her family.
Let me admit though, that this was another "I need a book on CD choice" and when I finished listening to it, my first reaction was that the book was way too long and unrealistic in it's portrayal of a teenage girl facing these horrible experiences.  Then I talked to my dear friend Kara and she helped me to see the book in a different light.  She suggested I read it instead of listening to it and she was right.  The audio book just don't work with this book.  It is choppy and difficult to follow.  I couldn't even tell if it was poetry or not.  But the book was a very different experience and I ended up really liking it.  Even though it is so completely heart-breaking at times.  Completely.  At one point I took an involuntary deep breath, just stricken by what happened.
The other issue that I had with the book that, once again, Kara helped me to understand, was the portrayal of Billie Jo.  This girl goes through just so so much.  So much.  And her reaction just seems so controlled.  I started thinking about other girls of that age, myself at that age, girls of that age in other books.  I thought, man I don't know ANYONE else who would react this way to this kind of horrible stuff.  But then Kara pointed out that it probably wasn't Hesse's intention to get into the psyche of Billie Jo.  I understood that and it helped me to appreciate the book so much more.
Out of the Dust was a Newbery Winner but I haven't read the Honor Books for that year, and the only one that appeals to me is Wringer, so I can't go on about it being 1954.  It wasn't a five-star, but I am really glad that I read it.
Okay.  So now it is a few days after reading Out of the Dust.  Usually if I take a little break and reflect upon a book I end up liking it more than I did after I first read it.  The exact opposite has happened with OOTD.  I just can't seem to accept Billie Jo's low level of emotion surrounding the injury and subsequent death of her mother.  Her reaction just floors me.  I must think about it more.  Just had to say that!

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