The Water Lady: How Darlene Arviso Helps a Thirsty Navajo Nation by Alice B. McGinty

Cover image

The Water Lady: How Darlene Arviso Helps a Thirsty Navajo Nation by Alice B. McGinty, illustrated by Shonto Begay (9780525645009)

Cody, a child living in the Navajo Nation, wakes up thirsty. The bucket in the kitchen is empty and so are all of the water barrels outside. This is the only water that Cody and his family have. Meanwhile, Darlene Arviso is getting ready to work. She has running water in her trailer, but many in the Navajo Nation do not. She climbs aboard the school bus she drives and delivers students to school. Then she heads to her other job. She fills the yellow tanker truck with water from the water tower and heads out onto the road once more. She drives many miles through the mesas, steep hills and valleys. Eventually, she reaches Cody’s home where she fills the water barrels. Over the course of a month, Darlene delivers water to over 200 families and then starts over again.

McGinty offers a glimpse into the story of one woman and her hard work that allows people on the Navajo Nation to survive without running water. At the same time, she also speaks to the hardship of lives lived without modern conveniences and the worry that can create in children like Cody. Throughout the book, Darlene is treated as the hero she is, a critical link to drinking water for families who ration it, using a fraction of what modern families tend to use.

Begay’s art captures the beauty of the Navajo Nation by showing many landscapes full of purple, blue and yellow light. Using watercolor washes to fill the background, he creates moments of worry, tenacity and joy as Darlene finally reaches them with water.

A powerful look at modern Navajos and the impact of community in the face of poverty. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade.

On the Other Side of the Forest by Nadine Robert

Cover image

On the Other Side of the Forest by Nadine Robert, illustrated by Gerard DuBois (9781771647960)

A little rabbit and his father live together near the edge of a dark and menacing forest where no one goes. His father has always wanted to know what is on the other side of the forest, so he sets a plan in motion. He takes their wheat harvest and begins to bake bread. When other rabbits in the community come around, he offers them bread in exchange for four large stones. Those stones, the two rabbits use to start building a huge tower to see above the tall trees. Their work continues for weeks and weeks until one day a terrible storm knocks down all of their hard work. The father rabbit falls asleep exhausted near his ruined tower, and that is when the community of rabbits appears and helps to rebuild the tower, higher than it was before. After lots more bread, more stones and plenty of hard work, the tower is complete. The little rabbit and his father are the first to climb to the top and see the surprise waiting for them.

Translated from the original French, Robert’s picture book reads like a folkloric story filled with classic elements such as bread, stones and sacrifice. She uses a storyteller’s voice throughout the book, drawing readers into the story. She excels at brevity in her text, using just enough to keep the story moving ahead and also explaining what is happening with enough details to bring it to life.

The art is exceptional, marvelously mixing modern and vintage elements into something very interesting and unique. The idyllic countryside setting is shown both in the closeup images as well as those showing extensive landscapes. The process of building the tower uses all sorts of levers and pulleys, showing the ingenuity at work and the hard labor involved.

A book full of suspense, fresh bread and community. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greystone Kids.