3.9 (299 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 

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In this haunting, lyrical novel told from three perspectives, Sarel has just witnessed the violent murder of her parents. But she is not completely alone on the drought-ridden land. Nandi is the leader of a pack of dogs who looks out for her pups and for skinny Sarel-girl. Nandi knows they are all in trouble, and she knows, too, that a boy is coming--an escaped prisoner with the water song inside him. A hard-hitting but ultimately hopeful survival story.
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Product details

  • 0-5
  • Hardback | 154 pages
  • 144 x 217 x 17mm | 286g
  • Boston, MA, United States
  • English
  • 0547976518
  • 9780547976518
  • 2,205,000

Review quote

A Junior Library Guild Selection

Brutally beautiful, this is a story that both inspires and sounds an alarm, a story of courage and heart. Just like Musa's ability to tap into water, it asks us to tap into our own humanity, even though it might be more deeply hidden than we can imagine.
--Kathi Appelt, Newbery Honor-winning author of The Underneath

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

Spare, unflinching, and beautifully written, this novel walks the line between magic and reality.
-- Franny Bilingsley, National Book Award finalist for Chime

Thirst and heat are palpable as kids and dogs fight fatal dehydration. . . . A wrenching piece with a wisp of hope for the protagonists if not for the rest of their world.

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.

Taut yet descriptive, Crowder's writing dramatically captures the characters' desperation; the blistering heat and their acute hunger and thirst are entirely persuasive.
--Publishers Weekly

* 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.
--Bulletin, starred review
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About Melanie Crowder

Melanie Crowder is a ceramicist, painter, and sculptor who has taught K-8 art in many venues, including the public school system. She received her MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College. She lives in the foothills of the Rockies. This is her first novel. Visit her website at
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Rating details

299 ratings
3.9 out of 5 stars
5 31% (94)
4 39% (117)
3 20% (61)
2 6% (19)
1 3% (8)

Our customer reviews

This book left me hungry. Hungry for more details about the main characters and the world the story took place in. For me it ended too soon and those are the only things I didn't like. I love the writing. It's short, sharp and packed with emotion all at once. The book is told from three POVs and I enjoyed each one of them equally but I have to say my favorite is Nandi. I personally tend to shy from books with animal narration but this one? I'm so glad I took the chance. The characters had to face numerous dangerous situations caused by nature and other human beings. Both Sarel and Musa have an extremely heavy emotional baggage. Although most of the immediate issues were resolved I wanted to know more. I wanted to know more about Musa's relationship with his brother, and Sarel's relationship with her parents. Now for the world building, I'm not sure what to say. I didn't find anything specific, it seems more of a combination of worlds. I noticed some post natural disaster theme, and a hint of post apocalyptic world. Everything happens in a desert setting that reminds me of parts of the African savannah mixed with some other deserts you can find in the United States. The author didn't waste words on description, instead you learn about the environment from the characters themselves. The same goes for physical features. I had no idea what Sarel looked like until Musa met her and vice versa. I noticed a variety of skin colors and hair which led me to speculate that this book could be a nice addition to my diversity bookshelf. But I believe it's up to everyone's interpretation which isn't a bad thing. The events in the book are a bit harsh and mildly graphic but I think it does a very good job portraying how resilient a human being can be. It's all about survival and more
by Akoss
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