The Water Lady: How Darlene Arviso Helps a Thirsty Navajo Nation

Schwartz & Wade/Random/. Mar. 2021. 44p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525645009.
Gr 1-4–Cody, a Navajo boy, wakes up thirsty, and there is no water in the kitchen, where his mother has just made oatmeal, or in any of the big blue containers outside his home. There is no water for him, or the horses, or the chickens. A few miles down the road, Darlene Arviso’s trailer does have running water, but other Navajo people do not. “Many families on the reservation do not—no gushing showers, no flushing toilets, no flowing sinks.” Darlene fills the tank of her large yellow truck with 3,000 gallons of water to deliver to 10 families that day, and one of them is Cody’s. She repeats this every day just as her ancestors helped their neighbors. There is no child listening who will not feel just as thirsty as Cody and be just as relieved when Darlene’s truck rolls into sight. McGinty’s storytelling, peppered with Navajo phrases and cultural cues, provides a balanced view of this life and through Cody’s perspective, just enough suspense. An author’s note rounds out the discussion and explains Darlene’s role not only as the Water Lady, but as bearer of news, social connections, and other threads of community life. Begay’s watercolors show a parched landscape full of desert beauty, but also the concern on thirsty Cody’s face, and his mother’s knowing smile that all will be right.
VERDICT With more resources at the back, this is a must-have for every collection and a sure path to children wanting to know more about water management in the Navajo Nation and elsewhere.

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