Kids’ books about water
For some great (YA and adult) books about water, check out my blog post “The Weight of Water” on @49thshelf
“My own life has also been defined by water. Georgian Bay, known as the sixth Great Lake, is the landscape of my heart and imagination. I have grown up there, sung into the wind, swum, paddled and skimmed over its surfaces and explored its depths. I love and fear it in equal measure.
In a country like Canada, so rich in water (inland and coastal), it’s hardly surprising that many other writers have also felt its formidable weight on their psyche. The list below includes both adult and young adult novels that treat water not as incidental colour or backdrop, but as a defining force in their character’s lives.”
All the water in the world
By George Ella Lyon and Katherine Tillotson, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011
This stunning book of collage, watercolour and word art tells a poetic tale of where water comes from and why we must preserve it: “All the water in the world… is all the water in the world.” With beautiful, carefully chosen language (“Thirsty air licks it from lakes/ spits it from ponds /guzzles it from oceans…”) and pages that force the reader to turn the book on angles and even on its side, the authors urge us not to take water —or the Earth —for granted.
A good trade
By Alma Fullerton, illustrated by Karen Patkau, Pajama Press, 2012
When he wakes up early to fetch water for his family, young Kato spots a beautiful white poppy in his Ugandan village garden. But there’s no time for stopping to smell the flowers. He must go on the long walk to the local well, a jerry can balanced on his head. On his way home he sees an aid worker with a truck full of something interesting. Will he be able to trade his poppy for whatever is in the truck? Kids will be surprised by how much responsibility little Kato must shoulder.
By Eric Walters, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes, Kids Can Press, 2014
Based on a true story, this colourful, beautifully illustrated picture book paints a vivid picture of life in a Kenyan orphanage when water becomes a point of contention with the nearby villagers. But Boniface, one of the orphans, has an idea that will change everyone’s life for the better. A great introduction to the importance of clean water and how it connects communities.
Nya’s Long Walk
By Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Brian Pinkney, Clarion Books, 2019
On the way home from fetching water, Nya’s little sister Akeer starts to feel ill. She gets worse and worse until Nya, who’s not much older, has to carry both her and the water. Step by slow, difficult step, they make their way home in this gripping story that will have kids on the edge of their seats. Coretta Scott King–award winner Brian Pinkney’s lovely, retro illustrations have an energy and momentum that carry this moving story along.
Over and Under the Pond
By Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal, Chronicle Books, 2017
With lyrical language and stunning blue-hued illustrations that zoom in and out, above and below, a boy and his mom explore their pond. They “skim past tall rushes…drift, heads tipped up to the sun…” all day as the boy learns about the creatures above and below the water line. At the back, children can read more about the animals, reptiles and birds the two encounter.
The drop in my drink: the story of water on our planet
By Meredith Hooper, illustrated by Chris Coady, Lincoln Children’s Books, 2015
A classic reissued. Hooper traces the journey of a single drop of water through time and space and geography. By showing the water cycle in all its complexity, its interaction with living and inanimate things, Hooper hammers home the reality of water as a finite resource.
Every Last Drop: Bringing Clean Water Home
Michelle Mulder, Orca Footprints, 2014
Chock-full of fascinating information, Every Last Drop is an excellent nonfiction primer that focuses less on science and more on the social importance of water and how kids everywhere are finding ways to conserve and preserve it. From highlighting catching fog in Chile to using playground teeter totters to pump water in Colombia, Mulder does an excellent job of engaging kids by making clear that water is precious.
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth
By Rochelle Strauss, illustrated by Rosemary Woods, Kids Can Press, 2007
Kids are asked to think of all the water in the world as coming from the same well in this comprehensive text filled with stats and interesting information. We are all connected and how one place or person handles water affects everyone: “Water has the power to change everything,” Strauss writes. “Every drop counts.” Excellent for reports and water basics.
The Water Walker
Written and illustrated by Joanne Robertson, Second Story Press, 2017
The inspiring true story of Nokomis Josephine Mandamin, an Ojibwe grandmother from Northern Ontario who walked around all of the Great Lakes in order to inspire people everywhere to protect and cherish the water (nibi). Carrying a copper pail of water and a staff with a bald eagle on it, she and her fellow Water Walkers set out in all kinds of weather, singing and sharing their message that water gives life and must be respected.
We are Water Protectors
By Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade, Roaring Brook Press, 2020
This gorgeous, lyrical book packs a wallop with its urgent call to all of us to protect the earth, water and “those who cannot fight for themselves” from harm and corruption. Inspired by her grandmother’s teachings and Indigenous-led movements across North America, the young girl stands up for what she believes, knowing it won’t be easy. A note at the back about the legacy of Water Protectors in Indigenous communities and the fight against oil and gas pipelines (especially by the Standing Rock Sioux) provides background for teachers and parents to offer more context.