Review Blog

Jul 21 2015

Thirst by Lizzie Wilcock

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Scholastic Australia, 2015. ISBN 9781742839660
(Age: 12+) Recommended. Survival. Australian outback. Foster care. When the car that is taking Karanda and 8 year old Solomon to their next foster home crashes in Central Australia, and their social worker is killed, Karanda is determined to be free of the foster care system that she believes has been terrible for her. With just her backpack and a bottle of water, she sets off into the desert to escape her old life, the misery and the mistakes she has made. There is only thing holding her back - Solomon, the solemn kid who has barely said a word to anyone. When she discovers that he has followed her, she decides that his survival skills are important to keep them alive and together they trek across the desert.
I was immediately reminded of Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, and thought that this would be a great companion novel to that popular classic. Instead of facing the Canadian wilderness where water was plentiful, Karanda and Solomon face the Australian desert, where water is scarce and precious, and food is virtually impossible to find. Fortunately Solomon has been a great fan of the TV show, The Bush Tucker Man, and is able to find and identify some native food sources for them and their struggle to survive makes for fascinating reading. A quick Google search will bring up reports of survival in the desert, so their feat doesn't seem to be too implausible and the reader is carried along by their adventures.
Equally engrossing are the personal stories that gradually come to light as the reader gets to know the characters. The foster care system hasn't worked for these two children who have suffered devastating personal loss. The themes of the importance of being loved and belonging to a family and having friends loom large in this book, as do the inadequacies of the foster care system and the children's lack of ability to communicate their needs to their foster parents.
Karanda's growth as a person and her gradual understanding of the impact of what she says to Solomon is also central to the story. I loved the dialogue, especially the nicknames that Karanda gives Solomon: 'fire boy' when he makes a fire, 'fall boy' when he falls down a cliff, and other humorous tags.
I read this book in one sitting and I am of the opinion that younger readers would find it very engrossing. Teacher notes are available.
Pat Pledger

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