The Water Walker

illus. by Joanne Robertson. 36p. glossary. Second Story Pr. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781772600384.
K-Gr 2—Nokomis Josephine Mandamin, an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe grandmother) started walking in 2003 to draw attention to issues of water quality and scarcity. Not just a mile or two—no, Josephine and the Mother Earth Water Walkers circumnavigated the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River and traversed the United States, from ocean to ocean. With a copper pail of water and an eagle-head staff in hand, Josephine and the Mother Earth Water Walkers continue their tradition each year. Conservation, spirituality, and determination are the warp and weft of the story as author/illustrator Robertson (also an Anishinaabekwe) shares Nokomis's deep commitment to water. Robertson's naive-folk art mash-up, however, lacks the same strength as her narrative. Wobbly lines give the book a homespun, unfinished quality. Several spreads, including one of the Water Walkers weeping as they pour water from their pail into Lake Superior, deserve a long look, but inconsistencies should give a purchaser pause. The mostly mouthless and noseless characters in the second half of the book convey solemnity, but other emotions are hard to decipher. Problems with scale abound, and text written in two different hands distracts. A glossary of Ojibwe terms is appended.
VERDICT A worthwhile read about a First Nation grandmother and her committment to one of our most important resources, but lacking in the quality of the illustrations.

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