Book review: Parched, by Melanie Crowder

Crowder, Melanie. Parched. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013, 150 pgs. Ages 9-13. ISBN 978-0-547-97651-8, $15.99 P4 Q6

This is a stark tale about a young girl and boy, both in dire straits, who meet and come together to effect their survival, as well as the survival of the girl’s pack of dogs, one of which does some of the narration of the story. Presumably taking place somewhere in Africa, the girl’s parents have just been murdered for not giving up the source of the water on their hard scrabble farm. The girl escapes, but has to try to find another water source, as the farm’s is drying up. The boy has been captured by the same murderers to perform the act of “water witching,” or finding water sources deep in the ground with concentration and a forked stick. This story is not for everyone and may be too brutal for a child as young as nine. I would hesitate to recommend it as a book for dog lovers, as some of the dogs meet a very sad fate, even though the matriarch of the pack does some heroic things. Perhaps for purchase for a library or gift, but caution should be exercised to make sure the reader is ready for the brutality. The cover does portray, in silhouette, a young boy and girl, dog and vulture in a tree. It is clear that this is no Disney tale! October 2014 review by L.R.

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