THE CRYSTAL DROP
Volume 20 Number 2
Hughes' twenty-fifth book and sixteenth work of science fiction maintains the high standards of style, theme, plot and character that readers have come to expect.
By the year 2011, a continuing drought caused by global warming has transformed the Canadian prairies into a largely unpopulated desert. Conditions on the Dougal farm near Fort Macleod, Alberta, reach a crisis point when Megan's mother dies during childbirth. (Their father has deserted the family.) Facing starvation, Megan, about thirteen, determines to take her brother Ian, ten, to Lundbreck Falls in the Rocky Mountain foothills, where their Uncle Greg has helped to start an environmentally conscious community called "Gaia, after the Greek name for Earth."
Megan, wearing her mother's crystal drop ornament as a talisman, sets out with Ian for their destination some 70 km distant; however, an estimated three-to four-day journey becomes a longer odyssey as the two discover that more than the land has changed. The pair's encounters with a quartet of Blackfoot youth, two groups of survivalists who protect their water with attack dogs and firearms, and an old couple who nurse a gunshot-wounded Meg back to health, provide both the fictional children and middle school readers with insights into how this once productive area has become a wasteland through mankind's greedy, rapacious use.
The siblings' ultimately successful travels also bring about changes in their relationship as their responses to shared events transform reciprocal antagonism into mutual dependence and finally shared, loving respect. The book's final chapter, set two years later, serves as a form of epilogue and suggests hope for the future.
Grades 5 to 8 / Ages 10 to 13
Dave Jenkinson, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Man.
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