Monday, January 27, 2014

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Parched

When I found out I’d won a copy of this book in a contest at Falling Leaflets, I was thrilled. I’d heard so much about it that I really wanted to read it. And it was definitely worth the read. 

Today’s Pick: Parched

by Melanie Crowder

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013

From the publisher:

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.

My Take:

I enjoy reading survival stories, but I haven’t read many about surviving drought, so all the details about the drought and how the characters were feeling were interesting to me. Sarel, Nandi and Musa each had their own challenges and they were all determined to survive somehow. This book made me think about what it would be like not to have enough water, and even though it was sad at times, I would read it again.  

As a writer, there were many things I admired about this story. Including a dog’s point of view along with the points of view from two different children was an interesting and different approach I hadn’t seen before. I liked how the author made these points of view quite distinct. Even more worthy of study is the way the author uses language – each sentence is written with spare prose that creates an image in the reader’s mind, almost like poetry. This is a wonderful book to read if you love the beauty of how words can be put together.

Opening Line:

“Sniff-sniff. My tail parts tall grass, swish-swish.”


“Tears seeped out of her eyes, cutting trails through the soot that caked her cheeks.”

“A thread of song scraped past his throat, lifting into the air and smoothing the pain from his face.”

“The dogs twined all around her, rubbing the goosebumps from her arms and licking her fists until they unclenched.”

Other Info:

Melanie Crowder lives and writes in Colorado. Parched is her first published novel.

In the teacher guide on her blog, she talks about some of the difficulties of writing the story: “The hardest thing by far, was the emotions. I wrote this book in very spare prose, to mirror the parched setting. So I had to show a lot of restraint when it came to my characters' feelings in order for them to seem organic to the rest of the story.” 

She also talks about writing the different points of view in an interview with Jess Lawson: “…each character needs a satisfying arc of his or her own, complete with emotional growth, tangible purpose and resolution of some kind at the end. The key is finding a way in which every character’s journey hinges on the others.”

For more info, visit Melanie Crowder’s website. 

You can find more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday books by checking out Shannon Messenger’s blog! Shannon is the founder of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and the author of the middle grade novels, Keeper of the Lost Cities and Exile (Keeper of the Lost Cities #2).


  1. So agree on the use of words in this book. Glad you liked it.

    1. I can imagine Melanie spent a long time working on each sentence to get it right.

  2. Ooh! A survival book? That sounds fascinating.

    1. I love survival stories and this one was unique!

  3. For me (like you), this was a book unlike any I'd read before. Such power in the sparseness of the words.

    1. I know. You almost have to read it twice to fully appreciate it.

  4. So pleased that you liked it~ awesome!

  5. Can't wait to read it for myself. I enjoyed your comments from an author's perspective. Thanks for featuring.

    1. Thanks, Greg! I'm hoping that thinking more about what I'm reading will improve my own writing.


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