10 books like Out of the Dust

By Karen Hesse,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Out of the Dust. Shepherd is a community of 6,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Crossover

By Kwame Alexander,

Book cover of The Crossover

Written in poetic verse, this novel is captivating, clever, and emotional. I love it when a book is written with so much emotion that I have to wipe away the tears. Yes, I cried. Alexander combined sport with heart, and this book has depth, and covers so much more than basketball. The family scenes are realistic and powerful.

The Crossover

By Kwame Alexander,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Crossover as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A million copies sold

'With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .
The court is SIZZLING.
My sweat is DRIZZLING.
Stop all that quivering.
Cuz tonight I'm delivering'

12-year-old Josh and his twin Jordan have basketball in their blood. They're kings of the court, star players for their school team. Their father used to be a champion player and they each want nothing more than to follow in his footsteps.
Both on and off the court, there is conflict and hardship which will test Josh's bond with his brother. In this heartfelt novel in verse, the boys…

Blood Water Paint

By Joy McCullough,

Book cover of Blood Water Paint

Joy McCullough’s Blood Water Paint is historical fiction that tells the story of Artemisia Gentileschi, a Renaissance painter who survived a sexual assault and persevered to see her assailant convicted in an Italian court. If the true aspects of the story weren’t compelling enough, McCullough contrasts her fictional character with the biblical heroines Judith and Susanna, using prose and verse strategically to weave the stories with their counter-narratives. McCullough’s experience as a playwright shines through here and her poetic devices are downright Shakespearean, revealing clues to her characters’ emotional truths through the deceptively simple arrangement of words on the page. This book is astonishingly good and a must-read for anyone intrigued by novels in verse.

Blood Water Paint

By Joy McCullough,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Blood Water Paint as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father's paint.

She chose paint.

By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome's most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the…

Long Way Down

By Jason Reynolds,

Book cover of Long Way Down

The reason I’m recommending the graphic version of this story is that, as a teacher of students with dyslexia, I believe it is critical to validate storytelling in all its forms. Visual stories remove barriers and make reading more equitable.

Long Way Down opens with, Will, finding his brother, Shawn, shot dead. Shawn had ventured into a rival gang’s territory in order to buy his mother’s eczema cream. Will rushes home, grabs his brother’s gun, and heads to the elevator. Shawn is following the three rules of his hood: do not cry, do not snitch, take revenge when a loved one is killed. However, his elevator ride takes an unexpected turn when it stops on each floor to let in ghosts of people who died due to gun violence.

Long Way Down

By Jason Reynolds,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Long Way Down as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“An intense snapshot of the chain reaction caused by pulling a trigger.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Astonishing.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A tour de force.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A Newbery Honor Book
A Coretta Scott King Honor Book
A Printz Honor Book
A Time Best YA Book of All Time (2021)
A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winner for Young Adult Literature
Longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature
Winner of the Walter Dean Myers Award
An Edgar Award Winner for Best Young Adult Fiction
Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner
An Entertainment Weekly Best YA Book of…

Voices

By David Elliott,

Book cover of Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc

In Voices, David Elliott uses formal verse to explore the last hours that Joan of Arc lived. Told from multiple points of view, including the voice of the flame that will burn Joan at the stake, Elliott chooses specific poetic forms to reflect fundamental truths about the different characters. All forms of verse in the book were popular during Joan’s actual lifetime, and Elliott provides an interesting author’s note at the back of the book. Aside from being a poetic tour de force, Voices is a true page-turner, and readers will root for Joan to triumph over her enemies, even as they dread the inevitable outcome.

Voices

By David Elliott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Voices as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Told through medieval poetic forms and in the voices of the people and objects in Joan of Arc's life, (including her family and even the trees, clothes, cows, and candles of her childhood), Voices offers an unforgettable perspective on an extraordinary young woman. Along the way it explores timely issues such as gender, misogyny, and the peril of speaking truth to power. Before Joan of Arc became a saint, she was a girl inspired. It is that girl we come to know in Voices.

The Firefly Letters

By Margarita Engle,

Book cover of The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba

The Firefly Letters was another early read. There is nothing that Margarita has written that I’ve not loved, but since this was the first of her books that I read, it has remained a favorite. Her poetic portrait of the early suffragette, Fredrika Bremer, reminded me that when hearts and minds are open, bonds of sisterhood transcend societal restrictions. It is a powerful book whose message continues to resonate. 

The Firefly Letters

By Margarita Engle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Firefly Letters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The freedom to roam is something that women and girls in Cuba do not have. Yet when Fredrika Bremer visits from Sweden in 1851 to learn about the people of this magical island, she is accompanied by Cecilia, a young slave who longs for her lost home in Africa. Soon Elena, the wealthy daughter of the house, sneaks out to join them. As the three women explore the lush countryside, they form a bond that breaks the barriers of language and culture.

In this quietly powerful new book, award-winning poet Margarita Engle paints a portrait of early women's rights pioneer…


The Watch That Ends the Night

By Allan Wolf,

Book cover of The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic

The Watch That Ends The Night tells the story of the Titanic through the voices of those who were there. I read this after I had written my own most recent book and was struck with how similarly Allan and I approached historical catastrophes. Both books are multi-voiced and contemplate the same issues of privilege and class distinctions. Like me, Allan chose to listen to nature and endow her with a voice of her own.

The Watch That Ends the Night

By Allan Wolf,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Watch That Ends the Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Audie Award, Distinguished Achievement in Production, 2012

Arrogance and innocence, hubris and hope - 24 haunting voices of the Titanic tragedy, as well as the iceberg itself, are evoked in a stunning tour de force. 

More than 2,000 men, women, and children are on board. Here on the first-class promenade is millionaire John Jacob Astor, who hopes his return from Egypt with his pregnant teen bride will invite a minimum of media attention. And here, in the third-class common room, a beautiful Lebanese refugee, on her way to family in Florida, discovers first love. And there in the distance, shrouded…


White Rose

By Kip Wilson,

Book cover of White Rose

This is based on the true story of Sophie Scholl, who courageously rebelled against the restrictions and horrors of the Nazi regime. White Rose was a more recent read and it saddened me to think that we've learned so little from the lessons of the past. Though it is a story with a tragic ending, White Rose reminded me how important it is to speak out against injustice before injustice becomes the norm. 

White Rose

By Kip Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked White Rose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Disillusioned by the propaganda of Nazi Germany, Sophie Scholl, her brother, and his fellow soldiers formed the White Rose, a group that wrote and distributed anonymous letters criticizing the Nazi regime and calling for action from their fellow German citizens. The following year, Sophie and her brother were arrested for treason and interrogated for information about their collaborators. This debut novel recounts the lives of Sophie and her friends and highlights their brave stand against fascism in Nazi Germany.

The Full Cicada Moon

By Marilyn Hilton,

Book cover of The Full Cicada Moon

This book is set in 1969, before the onslaught of cell phones and social media, when all eyes gazed upward toward the moon. Apollo 11 was preparing for its launch to the heavens, and the main character, Mimi Oliver dreams of becoming an astronaut. But first, as the daughter of a Japanese mother and Black father, Mimi needs to discover her own identity here on earth. The Full Cicada Moon illustrates my core belief that books build bridges between time and culture— just as Mimi does. 

The Full Cicada Moon

By Marilyn Hilton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Full Cicada Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Inside Out and Back Again meets One Crazy Summer and Brown Girl Dreaming in this novel-in-verse about fitting in and standing up for what’s right

It's 1969, and the Apollo 11 mission is getting ready to go to the moon. But for half-black, half-Japanese Mimi, moving to a predominantly white Vermont town is enough to make her feel alien. Suddenly, Mimi's appearance is all anyone notices. She struggles to fit in with her classmates, even as she fights for her right to stand out by entering science competitions and joining Shop Class instead of Home Ec. And even though teachers…

Letters from the Dust Bowl

By Caroline Henderson,

Book cover of Letters from the Dust Bowl

Henderson was a homesteader and teacher in the Oklahoma panhandle and this collection of her writing creates a compelling first-hand portrait of the Dust Bowl. Impeccably detailed about rural farm life, from the days of prosperity to the bare-bones existence necessitated by hardship, Henderson is a thoughtful, ponderous guide. “Out here we thought the depths of the depression had been fathomed some time ago when the sheriff subtracted from the very personal possessions of one our neighbors a set of false teeth that he had been unable to pay for.” 

Letters from the Dust Bowl

By Caroline Henderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Letters from the Dust Bowl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In May 1936 Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace wrote to Caroline Henderson to praise her contributions to American ""understanding of some of our farm problems."" His comments reflected the national attention aroused by Henderson's articles, which had been published in Atlantic Monthly since 1931. Even today, Henderson's articles are frequently cited for her vivid descriptions of the dust storms that ravaged the Plains.

Caroline Henderson was a Mount Holyoke graduate who moved to Oklahoma's panhandle to homestead and teach in 1907. This collection of Henderson's letters and articles published from 1908 to1966 presents an intimate portrait of a woman's…


A Long Way from Paris

By E.C. Murray,

Book cover of A Long Way from Paris

Written in an engaging style, A Long Way from Paris centers on a young women's experiences living with a small family and working as a goat herder in southern France in 1980.  Elizabeth soon discovers that it is hard work dealing with the animals, especially during the frigid winter months. The language barrier between her and the family adds an unwelcome layer of complexity to an already challenging experience.

A Long Way from Paris

By E.C. Murray,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Long Way from Paris as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this searing, authentic memoir, Elizabeth is hired to herd goats on a remote mountain farm in the South of France where she carves out a life for herself without heat, running water, or even a good grasp of French. Far from her younger life as a New England preppie and Oregon hippie, the challenges of farm work daunt her. She befriends an Australian shepherd, reflects on her spirituality, and muses on the man she left behind. As she grows stronger, Elizabeth faces her self-doubt while maintaining her humor, eking fun wherever she can. When tragedy strikes Elizabeth's adopted family,…


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