Reviews of City of Water

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection!

“This non-fiction picture book makes clear that water conservation is essential through mind-boggling and fascinating facts about how water moves from the forests, mountains, lakes, and rivers into our homes and back out again.” — Quill & Quire

“Insightful STEM offering.”—Booklist

“Most North American children in urban areas simply turn on a faucet to get their water. But where does water really come from when you live in a city? This informational picture book opens with a brief look at ancient aqueducts and water works, as well as dire realities confronting more than two billion people around the world who still don’t have safe, fresh drinking water. It then focuses on urban water systems and how cities can protect this natural resource. Double-page spreads feature short text passages along with illustrations in soft golds, pinks, and greens that contrast with abundant teal water. Illustrations with people reflect the diversity one would find in urban areas. While the text gives examples from around the world, the focus is on how U.S. and Canadian cities clean, store, and use water. Other sections explain how some cities reuse “graywater” and wastewater, like Toronto, which turns treated solid matter into fertilizer pellets for farmers, and why water may taste or even feel different. Water conservation tips conclude this insightful STEM offering.” — Angela Leeper, Booklist

“Educational and stylish”—Kirkus

“Endpapers feature a simple treatment of the water cycle, preparing readers to engage in a deep, detailed look at the way humans interact with the world’s water. “It’s easy not to think about water if you live in a city where it flows from the faucet with a mere flick of the wrist,” the introduction notes, but it’s difficult to forget water’s importance after reading these gentle, informative pages. Brusque brush strokes join muted primary colors to depict urban life in a way that is both realistic and artful. Compositions vary, almost always depicting movement…. Fun facts (“In every city of a million people, there’s at least $13 million worth of metal in the sewage!”) join sobering observations (“About 90 percent of the watersheds that provide water for the world’s largest cities have been polluted or degraded over the last century”). A “What can we do to help?” closing section lists suggestions for would-be water protectors…. Educational and stylish.”— Kirkus

“Encourages readers to think about water as a finite entity and to take action”—Publisher’s Weekly

This illustrated account of a valuable natural resource encourages readers to think about water as a finite entity and to take action to prevent our cities and watersheds from becoming more polluted.”—Publishers’ Weekly

“Cogently fills an information gap for libraries.” —School Library Journal

“City dwellers may take water for granted, but it’s a finite resource—and where does it come from? This welcome new title provides the answer for middle grade readers. After Curtis’s A Forest in the City, this is the second in a series addressing environmental concerns affecting cities, where many young readers live. The writer opens with the history of water systems and the sad, surprising lack of such systems even today in many parts of the world. She describes water sources (watersheds, aquifers, and bottled water), aqueducts, and reservoirs that transport water to the cities, and treatment systems including desalination (using the Canadian term). The book then moves on to storage and usage of treated water (including leaks), the problem of polluted public waters, and the ways water can vary in taste and even feel. At the other end of the system is wastewater collection and disposal, which includes what happens to storm waters and to the now-recycled waters that have passed through these extensive systems. The book concludes by suggesting ways readers can help preserve this precious resource. Spread by spread, this systematic explanation is enlivened by Dockrill’s brush-and-ink illustrations, which show a diversity of people. The back matter includes a glossary, selected sources, and acknowledgments. The endpapers illustrate the familiar water cycle.  Verdict: Cogently fills an information gap for school and public libraries.” —Kathleen Isaacs, School Library Journal

“The text presents excellent information and encourages readers to become good stewards of a finite resource. Brush and ink illustrations, rendered in cartoon style and a limited colour palette, both enhance the text and simplify the more advanced concepts.”—Canadian Review of Materials 

“What’s endearing about City of Water is its constant message of hope–and that it’s not too late to make change.”—Cloud Lake Literary

“Andrea Curtis’s City of Water…opens with a stunning illustration of the water cycle by illustrator Katy Dockrill. It sets a warm, interconnected tone for the book which both child and adult readers will love. Those familiar with Curtis’s work, such as A Forest in the City, will feel right at home among these pages as they are immersed in the fine needlework of Curtis’s storytelling.

Straight from the top, Curtis and Dockrill point to an interesting juxtaposition: the movement of water above ground and the system of pipes below. To most, what’s underground is invisible infrastructure. It’s out of sight and out of mind because we merely walk on top of it, unaware of the strategic framework that brings water to, in some cities, millions of people. Throughout the book, Curtis and Dockrill make the invisible visible. If seeing is believing, then Curtis and Dockrill are reinforcing a critical reminder: not everything is as it seems.

Throughout City of Water, Curtis and Dockrill demonstrate how there is more to water than the cool, clean stream flowing out of our kitchen faucets. In each spread, Curtis narrows the focus and further isolates the movement of water, answering all the questions one may have about how it gets from rain clouds to rivers and eventually to our homes.

Written for audiences aged eight to twelve years old, City of Water ignites a much-needed conversation about a delicate and finite resource that sustains life on earth—a resource humans wouldn’t be able to live without. It’s a sombre thought, but as Curtis so cleverly writes, “The history of cities begins with water—most urban centers grew up near rivers, lakes, or oceans. But as cities expanded, it became necessary to supply residents with drinking water and sanitation systems to get rid of waste.”

Curtis’s sharp, to-the-point style swiftly takes the reader through the history of water and how, for many around the world, access to it is a constant challenge. A further challenge is that water that is accessible may not be suited for drinking due to pollutants and disease.

Illustration by Katy Dockrill

What’s endearing about City of Water is its constant message of hope–and that it’s not too late to make change. Dockrill smartly uses raindrops with illustrations of people and animals within them. Imagine a future where children grow up to see themselves in every droplet of rain and fully understand that their behaviours and actions have an immediate impact on the water cycle. The thread of interconnectedness throughout City of Water is so beautifully fluid that it inspires active participation in making our world a better place.”—By Ashliegh Gehl, Cloud Lake Literary

“Fascinating facts for budding environmentalists”—The International Educator

“Fascinating facts for budding environmentalists, and for anyone who drinks water.”—Margriet Ruurs, The International Educator