Junior Library Guild Selection
“A thrilling, imaginative soul quencher. Crowder’s stunning debut is sure to become a modern classic.” —Rita Williams-Garcia, Newbery Honor-winning author of One Crazy Summer
“The writing, especially the descriptions of the drought conditions and extreme thirst, is excellent.” —School Library Journal
“The direct powerful prose in this first novel dramatizes the exciting contemporary survival story. . . . Fans of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet (1987) will want this.” —Booklist
From the jacket flap:
Sarel is a girl with secrets. She knows which tree roots reach down deep to pools of precious water. But now she must learn how to keep herself and her dogs alive. Nandi is the leader of those dogs. She knows they can’t last long without water—and she knows, too, that a boy is coming; a boy with the water song inside him.
Musa is that boy. His talent for finding water got him kidnapped by brutal men, yet he’s escaped, running away across the thirsty land that nearly claims his life. And so Sarel, Musa, and the dogs come together in what might be their last hope of survival.
I jumped at the chance to review this book, partly because of the beautiful things I’d heard about the writing, partly because I know desert living. I live in New Mexico, where every July and August, we eagerly await the rain. I grew up in Saudi Arabia, where it only rained twice in the three years I was there. But neither of these experiences prepared me for the dire situation Sarel and Musa are in.
Though the African country where the story takes place is never named, the setting truly becomes a character in the story. Sun baked, dusty, unforgiving, the dry land has driven people away and pushed others to behave brutally. Crowder's word choice is a spare reflection of the unforgiving landscape, beautiful and haunting.
The story is told in multiple view points from Seral, a girl surviving on her own on a dust-blown homestead, Nandi the alpha dog in a pack of Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and Musa, a boy who is a water dowser. Seral and the dogs start the story together, and it is evident that Musa, who has escaped his captors, will find his way to them, and their water, soon.
Crowder has managed to write a story that feels both contemporary and Apocalyptic, one that isn’t afraid to examine hardship, and one that leaves us with hope. This is an ambitious, powerful debut.
Enter to win a signed copy of Parched by leaving a comment about an experience you’ve had in a harsh landscape. The winner will be randomly selected Sunday, 15 September.