The Center for Children's Books


Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Water, Water, Everywhere...: Books Centered on Water - July 2014

Selected and annotated by Tad Andracki


Bandy, Michael S. White Water; by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein; illus. by Shadra Strickland. Candlewick, 2011. 40p. 6-9 yrs.
Deep in the Jim Crow South, Michael imagines that the water from the “Whites Only” drinking fountain must be cooler and fresher than the warm, impure water from the “Coloreds” fountain he has to use.  A surreptitious slurp from the forbidden fountain proved to him that the water, in fact, came from the same pipes, providing a spark of insight into the absurdity of segregation and a desire to see things change.

Chin, Jason. Coral Reefs. Porter/Roaring Brook, 2011. 40p. Gr. 2-4.
A visit to the New York Public Library reading room turns into a swim through the ocean when a young girl picks up this very book.  As waves crash through the windows and fish start swimming around the stacks, Chin introduces information about the structure of coral reefs and their marine inhabitants in a freewheeling but factual adventure.

Crowder, Melanie. Parched. Harcourt, 2013. 154p. Gr. 6-8.
A severe drought in an unspecified African locale causes a violent crew to shoot Sarel’s parents (whose farm is over a spring) and kidnap Musa (who has a gift for dowsing).  Sarel and her family’s dogs, including Nandi (who is also one of the narrators), eke out a survival, and when Musa escapes his captors, he joins them . . . but how long can they survive without water?

Engle, Margarita. Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck. Holt, 2011. 160p. Gr. 7-10.
Quebrado—a bilingual, mixed-raced boy—was kidnapped by pirate captain de Talavera to interpret for his ship and its inhabitants.  When a hurricane wrecks the ship, Quebrado is rescued by fisherman Naridó, but he soon finds that his captors also survived the shipwreck.  This free-verse novel, which won a Pura Belpré Honor, explores the disastrous consequences of early contact between Europeans and indigenous Caribbean islanders.

Frankel, Jordana. The Ward. Tegen/HarperCollins, 2013. 465p. Gr. 9-12.
Rising ocean levels have flooded future New York City, and canals—contaminated with the contagious Blight—provide the most accessible fresh water.  Renata drag-races across the rooftops of the city, and her skill draws the attention of the government, which offers her a tidy sum to cover up their search for a secret water source—watched over by a long-underground society—that may hold a cure for the Blight.

Geisert, Arthur. Ice. Enchanted Lion, 2011. 28p. 5-9 yrs.
In this addition to Geisert’s wordless maps of piggy inventiveness, a community of island pigs is wilting under insufferable heat, and their massive cistern is nearly dry.  A council of porcine thinkers realizes that their ship (actually a hot-air powered airship) can help them bring back an iceberg, leading to lovely pool parties and drinks complete with ice cubes.

Jenkins, Emily. Water in the Park; illus. by Stephanie Graegin. Schwartz & Wade 2013. 34p. 5-8 yrs.
Gentle, matter-of-fact narration and easy-going illustrations packed with park-goers to observe combine in this meandering walk through a park on a summer’s day—a Bulletin Blue Ribbon.  Splashing in the pond, sips from the drinking fountain, and a downpour show off just a few of the ways that water complements a visit to the park.

Lloyd-Jones, Sally. Poor Doreen: A Fishy Tale; illus. by Alexandra Bolger. Schwartz & Wade, 2014. 36p. 6-8 yrs.
The visit of fish Miss Doreen Randolph-Potts to her cousin is interrupted when a delicious-looking dragonfly turns out to be a fisherman’s lure.  Never fear, though, because Doreen’s unflappable glee and complete obviousness to her actual situation make this picture-book river romp a hoot . . . and everything turns out all right in the end.

Lyon, George Ella. All the Water in the World; illus. by Katherine Tillotson. Jackson/Atheneum, 2011. 32p. 5-9 yrs.
Scientific explanations of the hydrologic cycle and the geographic allocation of water meet homey poetry in this picture book probing of the age-old question: “Where does water come from?”  Alternatingly patterned and fluid digital artwork matches the lively beat throughout.

Mahy, Margaret. The Green Bath; illus. by Steven Kellogg. Levine/Scholastic, 2013. 40p. 6-9 yrs.
Sammy reluctantly hops into his family’s brand-new pea-green, claw-foot bathtub, when it suddenly bursts into life, bounding along toward the ocean with Sammy in tow.  Swashbuckling adventures with mermaids, sea serpents, and pirates ensue, accompanied by verdant illustrations in Kellogg’s classic style.

McGinnis, Mindy. Not a Drop to Drink. HarperCollins, 2013. 320p. Gr. 8-10.
In Lynn’s futuristic world, water is so scarce that it’s worth dying over, so when a coyote kills her mother and leaves her injured, she must turn to neighbors for help guarding the pond that stands by her cabin in the backwoods.  A gang of violent men has its eye on Lynn and her pond, though, and the looming threat of their attack hangs stiflingly over this brutal novel.

McKinnon, Hannah Roberts. The Properties of Water. Farrar, 2010. 176p. Gr. 5-8.
Living on the lakeshore in Maine has meant that sisters Lace and Marni have practically grown up swimming.  This summer however, Lace is left alone with her father in her mother’s and sister’s absence, insisting that she remains dry—a trait that’s slowly revealed to be because she’s still processing a diving accident that has left Marni in critical condition at a hospital in the city.

McKissack, Patricia. Never Forgotten; illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon. Schwartz & Wade, 2011. 48p. Gr. 5-9.
This Coretta Scott King Honor winner uses free verse to develop a legend-like tale of Musafa, raised by his blacksmith father and the Mother Elements Earth, Fire, Wind, and Water.  The elements fail in their attempts to return Musafa to his father, but tell the sorrowful story of his crossing of the Atlantic in the middle passage and a breath of hope that he’ll be granted freedom.

Moore, Inga. Captain Cat. Candlewick, 2013. 48p. 5-8 yrs.
The captain of the Carlotta has been dubbed Captain Cat for the large number of feline compatriots he keeps on board.  The child queen of a remote island to which Captain Cat has sailed has never seen a cat before and is quite impressed, offering jewels in exchange for kitty friends.  The comfy narrative and hazily hatched artwork make this a fine readaloud choice.

Napoli, Donna Jo. Storm. Wiseman/Simon, 2014. 368p. Gr. 9-12.
Unceasing rain has flooded Sebah’s village, causing her to lose her family and home.  Trapped in a tree, she manages to build a raft with the aid of another survivor, a boy who agrees to marry her, until he, too, is swept away.  She manages to find her way to an ark—Noah’s ark—and stows away with the animals, until her pregnancy puts her solitary survival into question.

Park, Linda Sue. A Long Walk to Water. Clarion, 2010. 128p. Gr. 5-8.
This dual-perspective novel of the Sudanese civil war offers glimpses into the 1985 life of Salva—a real member of the group of Sudanese refugees who took an eighteen-month trek to a refugee camp in Kenya—and his efforts to build wells in Sudan.  That’s where Nya comes in—a contemporary girl who, twice a day, traverses a great distance to collect water for her family from a faraway pond, Nya’s life will be changed by Salva’s work.

Picard, Matthias Picard, illus. Jim Curious: A Voyage to the Heart of the Sea. Abrams, 2014. 48p. Gr. K-5.
Jim’s underwater adventure takes him past a fearsome shark, through a sunken ship filled with treasure, into the ruins of Atlantis, and all the way to the ocean floor, where a beat-up wooden hatch tests his courage—and the audience’s mental dexterity—in this mind-bending, format-defying 3-D, wordless graphic novel.

Renier, Aaron. The Unsinkable Walker Bean; written and illus. by Aaron Renier; color by Alec Longstreth. First Second/Roaring Brook, 2010. 192p. Gr. 5-9.
Walker Bean is charged by his grandfather, the great Admiral Bean, to ensure that his father returns a soul-stealing skull to the deep undersea trench crawling with merwitches where it belongs.  Frenzied underwater chases ensue as antiques dealers, pirates, the merwitches themselves, and—especially—the mysterious Dr. Patches try to get their hands on the skull in this fantastic and phantasmagoric graphic novel.

Rhodes, Jewel Parker. Ninth Ward. Little, 2010. 217p. Gr. 5-8.
Lanesha has lived with Mama Ya-Ya in the Ninth Ward ever since her mother died in childbirth, and though she’s gifted with the ability to see ghosts she’s more interested in becoming an engineer in the future.  Mama Ya-Ya’s premonition of Hurricane Katrina sends Lanesha into frenzied preparation, but she’ll have to rely on her resourcefulness and smarts to survive the floods that destroy her neighborhood.

Robinson, Fiona. Whale Shines: An Artistic Tale. Abrams, 2013. 32p. 6-9 yrs.
Underwater denizens are buzzing with anticipation for an art show opening (Mr. Jackson Pollock’s), but the whale who’s using his broad sides as ad broadsides is sad that he can’t join in with artistic expression—until he realizes that his fins whir up bioluminescence in the plankton that helps them do a Starry Night performance.  Silliness and soft watercolors combine with great aplomb in this artistic picture book.

Rocco, John. Swim that Rock. Candlewick, 2014. 293p. Gr. 6-9.
Jake can’t bear the thought of leaving his mother’s diner in Rhode Island, so with his father presumed dead and the rent due, he turns to work on the side.  His dad’s friend offers him clamming work on his quahogging boat, but a newcomer Jake calls “the Pirate” offers some more . . . interesting . . . work.

Tougias, Michael J. The Finest Hours: The True Story of a Heroic Sea Rescue; by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman. Ottaviano/Holt, 2014. 176p. Gr. 6-10.
February 18, 1952 brought blizzard conditions to the coastline of Cape Cod, and the Coast Guard station at Chatham quickly received word that not one but two oil tankers—the Fort Mercer and the Pendleton—had broken into pieces in the massive, crashing waves.  This adaptation for younger readers of Tougias’ adult history crafts a thrilling story of the successes—and the tragic losses—the lifeboat teams faced in the storm.

Virgo, Seán. The Shadow Mother; illus. by Javier Serrano Pérez. Groundwood, 2014. 72p. Gr. 5 up.
A sailor who grew up on ships falls head over heels for a mysterious woman he sees on a beach and claims her as his wife by stealing her shadow.  Years later, their son finds this prize, which gives him a fever whose only cure is to sacrifice himself to the ocean.  This long-form picture book combines brocaded prose and surrealistic artwork for a haunting reimagining of Celtic selkie lore.

Yaccarino, Dan. The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau. Knopf, 2009. 32p. Gr. 2-4.
This mellow biography details the career of the famed marine explorer, with special attention given to important dives and Cousteau’s inventions.  Easygoing but information-packed text is accompanied by grainy gouache illustrations, creating a rich, high-interest environment.

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