The big dry by Tony Davis

cover image

Angus&Robertson, 2013. ISBN 9780732297633.
(Age: 12+) Recommended, Drought, Future, Dystopia. With the world a dust bowl and everyone taking shelter as soon as the siren warns of a coming dust storm, George and his small brother don their dust masks, and go to the bathroom, the most secure place in the house, waiting for their father to return. He left some some time before in search of food to augment their dwindling supplies but has not returned, and George must keep Beeper hidden lest the authorities take him away. Survival is paramount.
Suddenly a girl appears in their hallway and with the oddest of attitudes, asks questions, and Beeper, though warned not to, tells her of their situation. When they go out in search of their father, they see things which underlines their plight, wanderers picking off the vulnerable, authorities taking children, dust closed hospitals.  But going home after helping the rabbito when he has been attacked by the wanderers, they find Emily has returned. The relationship between the three struggles between dependence and suspicion, as the brusque Emily wants them to join forces, but George cannot trust her, and despite all evidence wants to stand alone waiting for dad.
This is a grim allegory for our time, when water is traded, drought has ravaged everything in sight, the sun is hot and dangerous, and people are bent on survival, their own. Children are taken by the authorities, neighbours are suspicious and reclusive, and dreams of a better life, the green places fill their sleepless nights.
Readers will compare their own situation with that of George, think about their own survival in such a place, and open their minds to the thoughts that many are in this situation today, it is not a just a dystopian story set in a possible future.
Fran Knight