Monday, May 17, 2010

36. Year of No Rain - Alice Mead

For: Middle Grades
Dell Yearling/Random House, 2003
130 pgs.
RL 4.5, ages 9-12
Rating: perfect for my 4th grade Africa Unit
Dedication: For the children of South Sudan

It is 1999. Stephen Majok's life is irrevocably changed when his southern Sudan village is attacked, cows and relief food stolen, and most people killed. Stephen had been sent to hide in the woods, and returns to find his mother dead and his older sister gone. No one is left, the food has all been stolen, the rope to the well is gone so water is unavailable, everything seems useless. So Stephen and his two friends set off for Kenya, or at least for somewhere they can find food and shelter.

This is the story of 10-year-old Stephen's journey. Trying to find water, protecting themselves from lions, hiding from trucks and planes that transport soldiers, and even contracting malaria are some of the hazards of this new life. The reader gets a feel for Sudan - its way of life, its landscape, and some customs of the Dinka people. It's somewhat adventurous, and incredibly difficult to imagine. It's real...and it's contemporary. It's happening now, and kids can learn about Africa as well as current events. A tough topic.

Yes the mother dies, but it is not too graphic..."He ducked his head and entered and saw immediately that his mother was there, dead. Keeping his eyes averted, he quickly covered her with a straw mat."

I think Alice Mead did a good job.

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