"Uss' slice of whimsy teleports readers to the smog-filled, congested streets of Los Angeles and give them a hearty appreciation for big, improbable ideas. . . . Colossally cool."—Kirkus Reviews
"Emotionally charged and eloquently rendered in words and art, this picture book is worth owning and cherishing." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"A beautiful and important book about climate change featuring those who are most affected by it." —Kirkus Reviews, 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.