“The Dry,” by Rebecca Nolen, Skipjack Publishing, 238 pages.

A drought has parched West Virginia in 1895. Twelve-year-old Elliot’s father has been missing for three months.

Elliott determines to search for his missing father who left to investigate a child labor story for his newspaper. No one else seems concerned about missing children. Where could they be?

Elliot boarded a train, reading and rereading the last letter he’d received from his father that indicated he intended to investigate a shut down mine in the hills of West Virginia.

On the train Lefty challenged Elliot, but a fight was avoided when Elliot realized that Lefty was actually a girl dressed as a boy.

When they got off the train, Lefty grudgingly offered to show Elliot to the Wingate Coal Mine.

A rat faced man, Nogard, a recruiter for the mines, would have captured them but Elliot’s unusual watch scared him off.

They rescued a small blind donkey and met with Jack. He had known Elliot’s father and gave them food and much advice. Could they trust him?

Jack claimed a meteor had slammed into the earth and the impact separated the earth into a Dry side and a Water side. He warned them not to go into the mine without him.

Despite Jack’s warning, Elliot and Lefty managed to get inside and explored the mine in the darkness of the tunnels.

They figured Nogard’s name was dragon spelled backward. Amid thunderous falling rocks, their escape route closed.

Elliot had discovered a weird world of monstrous insects, opposing villains and bizarre riddles, like nowhere on earth. He found himself in a totally unsettled, unpredictable adventure.

Part 2 and 3 are a continuation of Elliot’s efforts to find his father and to reverse the captivity of the children. He never loses faith in himself but continues to battle impossible odds.

The fate of this bizarre world hangs on Elliot’s courage and determination keeping the reader on edge as to what disasters await.

The tragic lack of green, trees and dampness invites readers to feel the lack of humidity and the dryness of the environment. The author places the reader in the crackling atmosphere of drought and the environment.

The reader goes along with villains and heroes, unsure which is which because of the well-drawn creatures.

Author Rebecca Nolan has created a complex world with mythical animals and insects that constantly place her characters in peril.

The author lives with her family, two cats, and a large dog in a 100-year-old house in Houston. She is a longtime member of SCBWI, The Houston Writer’s Guild. She is a master gardener with an extensive and fairly useless bug collection. She writes adult books under the name R.L. Nolen.

JoAn Watson Martin is an educator.

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