This is a notable example of a worthy picture book that is completely unsuitable to share with very young children. The story is a heart-rending first-person account of starvation in Africa, and begins with the death of the young narrator. It was inspired by the famine in Niger in 2005. All royalties are going to the Save The Children organisation, and it is dedicated to "all children who do not wake up safe and comfortable"
Set in Horshoe, Canada during the Depression, this novel is as spare and practical as the dustbowl farms it describes. Robert is an 11-year-old, who loves reading and enjoys words to the extent that you can practically see him rolling a tasty word around in his mouth like a fine wine. One day his little brother Matthew disappears on the way to town, and Robert seems to be the only one who remembers Matthew or cares that he's gone. His parents, after their initial panicked search for Matthew seem to forget he ever existed. A new man, Abram Harsich, comes to town around the same time and promises the townspeople that his new machine will make it rain and save their farms, save their entire lives. The whole town pitches in to work on the rain machine, almost like they are under a hypnotic spell. Only Robert is able
to resist, but can he make the town and his parents remember their missing children? Where are the children and what is Harsich up to?
A quick read, the sparse language manages to describe so much, with so few words. It's hauntingly beautiful and not overly explained. The reader is left to sketch in some of his or her own explanations. For some kids, that's great, it's a jumping off point, some kids really want things completely explained and may want to talk about this afterwards. The whole question of "could my parents really totally forget me" could be upsetting for younger children.
A good, quick, quality read.