Rating: 4 stars
“The Big Dark” by Rodman Philbrick is a scary story because it could come true. Rodman Philbrick explains how something very like the total power failure that he writes about could really happen. In the story, a solar flare knocks out the power grid all over the country, and those in the remote New Hampshire town where Charlie lives must try to survive. Charlie and his family have a wood stove, so as long as the wood holds out, they will not freeze to death.
But there are other dangers — not just hunger but danger on two legs. In the midst of this chaos, Charlie realizes that he needs to go on a journey to get medication to save his mother. How will he travel in the middle of the harshest winter? What will happen to his family while he is gone?
Philbrick’s writing makes the story difficult to put down. He creates characters who are real — with their faults and heroism. He also creates a really evil bad guy. One who is scary because we have all heard about his kind. They are real.
Charlie is a real hero. He and his family and most of the villagers do the right thing and care for those who are weak or infirm. It’s not just a survival story, “The Big Dark” is also a story about the spirit of compassion and teamwork. It’s about our humanity in the face of the end of the world as we know it.
Middle grade readers will enjoy this book on a superficial level, but most will need to discuss the themes with adults to really understand what Philbrick is saying. They will enjoy it on either level, though, so be sure to stock libraries and classrooms with this engrossing and well-written story.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by Blue Sky Press, the publisher.