"A book to be read over and over for its intriguing story, illustrations, and captions." —School Library Journal, starred review
"Braden sensitively demonstrates how isolating it can be to live with people who, despite good intentions, force their children to fulfill expectations that run counter to their own senses of self. . . . All the characters find ways to encourage each other, be less alone, and connect.”—Booklist, starred review
Congrats, Melanie, on this star from Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books!
Three narrators—Sarel, a white girl; Musa, a black boy; and Nandi, one of the lion-hunting dogs that Sarel's father breeds—share this gripping story that begins during a serious drought in an unspecified African setting. The Tandie, a militant gang, murder Sarel's parents, whose farm had access to a secret spring, and kidnap young Musa, forcing the boy, a natural dowser, to search for underground water. With only Nandi and the other dogs to help her, Sarel must somehow find water, food, and a shady place to survive. When Musa manages to escape his captors, he joins forces with Sarel, but can they find the hidden water before the ruthless Tandie hunt Musa down or the drought kills them? Crowder's spare storytelling and third-person narration provide young readers some safe distance for witnessing the tragic events, while well-chosen details and taut descriptions effectively convey the intensity of the situation. The lack of identifying specifics about the setting, the area's history, and even Sarel (who is not revealed as being white until midway through the book) and Musa means that readers will need to read carefully to piece together what is going on, but the immediacy that results from being thrust into the middle of things makes the story immensely engaging. The ending may leave some readers wanting to know what will happen next, but overall this is a poetic and powerful survival story; readers will want to tackle it with a full water bottle on hand.