Reviews: Dust and Rain

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Jewel from Ruth Hartley challenges humanity

Review by Daniel Sikazwe, Zambia Daily Mail, Vol.26 No. 187, 6 August 2022

The book, Dust and Rain, is a jewel that Ruth Hartley has crafted for young readers. Its message transcends age. The book bravely challenges humanity to dispense with modern-day opulence in order to save planet earth from a looming climatic apocalypse. The looming climatic doomsday is announced in a premonition in the very first paragraph of the book by the main character, 11-year-old Chipo when she says: “Something bad is going to happen ... when I look up, I see that the sky isn’t blue. It’s white, hot and so thick that it makes it hard to breathe. I know something up there is watching us. Something is swirling up above us in circles that come closer and closer.”

The circles become, to the reader, a lucid symbolic silhouette of a valley haemorrhaging from scorching heat and the lack of rain, corporate greed bent on excavating the last pristine habitats for copper and a melange of moral deprivation showing up in the form of child trafficking and debasement of human life.

The little lives of two children are enveloped in fear and sometimes despair during a long perilous journey. Chipo aged 11 and her brother Chibwe aged 12, set out to save their valley from a marauding drought. The drought has got the children’s parents weighed down with worry, leading Chipo to ask her brother the question that reveals the theme of the book very early in the story.

“What happens if there is no rain and Pa and Ma can’t grow any vegetables this year?” Chipo asks ...

Full Review

A stupendous odyssey

Review by Verona Mwelwa Chilonge Mwansa, Zambia, 17 June 2022

It is supposed to be a children's book but is equally important that adults read it too. I read it twice. First for leisure then next to get the deeper meaning. A stupendous tale of the brave and determined brother and sister with belief in their quest to save the land. The author's voice is in a key to drive home the importance of caring for the environment. The facts are woven in a colourful tapestry of magic and adventure with talking animals birds and insects and mythical creatures who tell us in crystal clear language of their role in the environment. I learned unique facts I didn't know.

With clear-eyed concise vision, Ruth nails her characters and settings with precision, drawing the reader into a vividly rendered apocalyptic vision of a drought-ravaged land. Every character and animal Chipo and Chibwe meet is pivotal to the whole narrative: The greedy politician and his nefarious foreign businessman friend, conniving to open a destructive mine in the game park, the woman child trafficker, the environmentalists, the social worker, and the charcoal-burner. The children learn about trust and betrayal.

On the children's journey back home the author took me down a trip on the mighty Zambezi from the source, past the flood plains of Western Province, flying over the Victoria falls hoisted by pelicans in a fishing net, meeting the ancestors deep in lake Kariba and hearing the voice of Nyami Nyami the lake God, to the confluence of Luangwa and Zambezi and to their home in the valley to slay the evil drought witch, Kambili, with a drop of magical water from the source of the great river in the green forest of North Western Province. I see the thunderheads building and the rain falling on the parched earth.

I recommend this book as a school reader and textbook. Our children need it to understand the balance of nature. The story sends a clear and strong message to us to care for our environment and wildlife. It matters. I could say a lot more but then I'd end up writing a novel reviewing this amazing magical book. Ruth Hartley, you made a powerful point. A stupendous odyssey.

A book you just have to have

Review by Sikela Namangolwa, WECSZ Lusaka Branch Education Officer, Zambia, 8 July 2022

Dust and Rain is an intriguing story that successfully breaks down the complexities of Climate Change science into a simplified or much easy-to-understand style.

Chibwe and Chipo’s adventures makes the story so perfectly adapted to the African context making it both an educative and exciting read; for all age groups.

Delve deeper into learning about climate change and take appropriate actions towards saving your green valleys. This is a book you just have to have.

Timely and important

Review by Anne Barlow, Tasque, France, 19 June 2022

This is an interweaving of African traditional wisdom with an exploration of the modern environmental catastrophe menacing the planet, in a sort of fairy-tale format. The story, specially edited to be accessible to younger readers, carries one along to the final happy outcome, with the application of the lessons learned from the Wise Woman in the Green Forest — a story with meaning for both adults and children facing the grim future caused by centuries of abuse of the natural world.

A timely and homely reminder of what's coming down the track unless we wake up . . .

First published on, 19 June 2022

Absolutely brilliant on so many levels

Review by Charles Getliffe, France, 13 June 2022

WARNING: If you read the first page of this book you will be hooked. I did just that and then ended up reading the book from cover to cover in one day. The writing is so good that it effortlessly draws you on to read the next chapter.

The target audience is young readers and it will definitely make them think about what is happening to our planet today. Powerful stuff and an important message which is presented in such an engaging way that it will hold the attention of all children. It’s an important book which every teacher should build into their curriculum when teaching children about the environment. Be prepared for the questions.

Absolutely brilliant on so many levels.

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6 Comments on “Reviews: Dust and Rain”

  1. Meg Boxall

    Dust and Rain – This is a magical book. For African children and for children worldwide for the lessons it teaches through the storytelling. It shows the diversity of all forms of life and describes beautifully how they interact and depend on one another. It is so relevant today in these times of climate change throughout the world. Dust and Rain – a wonderful, magical story for children.

    1. Ruth Hartley

      Hi Meg,
      Thank you for writing this review especially when you are so busy yourself. I did want to show how much we are all linked to nature – to animals and plants and other humans in what does feel like a magical way so I’m glad that that appealed to you.
      I do think raising awareness about climate change is very important now.

  2. ellen rugen

    A great adventure story enabling children to immerse themselves in an African environment. It caused our bright 9 year old granddaughter to ask lots of questions abut our time in Africa and I had no hesitation in passing the book on to her. It introduces the reality of a drought stricken village and gives a brother and sister a mission to save the village in a dangerous and magical way. The slightly larger print makes it accessible to a younger audience beginning to read a ‘proper’ book as well as their older siblings and their parents of course!

    1. Ruth Hartley

      Hi Ellen – thank you very much for this review of Dust and Rain. I’m so glad that your granddaughter enjoyed it. I really hoped that this book would get children asking questions and I did want children both in Africa and in Europe and the rest of the world to feel interested enough to want to know more. I’m glad that parents have liked it also but it is for children first. You are also a writer and know how important it is to reach readers and how hard that can be too.

  3. Leah

    I was exposed to this lovely story by Tia while spending time with her and Eyal. The adventures of Chipo and Chibwe were entertaining as well as important and educational lessons that should be learned by all. With the current status of the world, climate change is one of the biggest threats humanity will continue to face for years to come. To love Mother Nature and to care for her is vitally crucial to the survival of our home and this book articulates this through a wonderful story full of adventure and hardship and beauty. The way Ruth weaves so effortlessly many life lessons is impressive and beautiful. I believe this wonderful book should be read by all!

    1. Ruth Hartley

      Hi Leah,
      Thank you so much for this lovely comment on Dust and Rain. It is very heartening and encouraging to have such a positive statement.
      I’m very grateful to Tia for her support and help with the publicity for my book too.
      I’m sorry that it’s taken so long to reply to you. I can give a list of reasons why it did but that’s not useful. I do normally try and keep up with comments and questions on my blog but you will see that there’s been a long gap since I last blogged – it’s just been one of those times. I’m busy on another Chipo and Chibwe adventure though – a much shorter one – but also one I feel that is important!. If you like I can send you a draft and ask for your opinion about it.
      Wishing you all the best. Ruth