Of Words and Water: The Story of Wilma Dykeman—Writer, Historian, Environmentalist

Reycraft. Apr. 2024. 32p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781478870371.
K-Gr 2–This sweet biography shines a light on Wilma Dykeman, a little known environmentalist who was an early advocate for cleaning polluted rivers. It follows her life’s ebbs and flows from when she was a little girl in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina to the publication of her book, The French Broad, to her career as a journalist and speaker. The author presents Dykeman’s journey clearly and in linear fashion, breaking down the issue of polluted waters in a digestible way for children to understand. The words are presented in multi-colored text that flows like a river over the illustrations; it’s pretty but may make it harder for newer readers to follow along. The illustrations are compelling; they are visually interesting, composed of mixed-media that uses physical objects such as clay and paper on top of drawings. Because the illustrations are so intricate, the text, especially without color differentiation, sometimes gets lost. Hitchcock affirms that Dykeman never wavered in her voice or ideals, which will have an impact on readers: “Wilma’s messages were as constant as rivers rolling toward the sea: Be good to the earth, Fair to other people, Use words to fight injustice.”
VERDICT An accessible introduction to environmental activism for younger readers, introducing them to a woman who deserves to be remembered for her life’s work.

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