Picture Book Reviews: We Are Water Protectors & My Friend Earth

Two picture books on the review docket today! Courtesy of the kind folks at Raincoast Books, I will be talking about We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade, and My Friend Earth by Patricia MacLachlan and Francesca Sanna. Happy reading!

Water is the first medicine, Nokomis told me…Water is sacred, she said…The river’s rhythm runs through my veins. Runs through my people’s veins. My people talk of a black snake that will destroy the land.”. We Are Water Protectors is the lauded picture book collaboration from author Carole Lindstrom and illustrator Michaela Goade. Lindstorm, Anishinaabe/Métis and tribally enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, uses elements of Ojibwe culture and of Anishinaabe prophecy to tell a powerful, viscerally affecting story of earth’s descent into environmental devastation. Even more specifically, the story within We Are Water Protectors calls to real-life events in the United States affecting Native Americans: the fight of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other Indigenous Nations and allies against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline just a few years ago.

“Take courage! I must keep the black snake away from my village’s water. I must rally my people together. We fight for those who cannot fight for themselves…”. With text as steady and lyrical as it is galvanizing, We Are Water Protectors shows the necessity of standing up and fighting, even as destruction on earth occurs. Even when things “will not be easy” and the “venom [of the black snake] burns the land [and] courses through the water, making it unfit to drink”, readers see how the characters within the story continue to stand and fight. In tandem with the author’s commanding text, artist Michaela Goade’s illustrations are truly breathtaking and impactful, with unmissable images of bravery, of story, of ruination, and last but not least, of hope. Goade, an enrolled member of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, details in the Illustrator’s Note at the book’s end how particular illustrative elements were included to honour Lindstrom’s Ojibwe culture. A story that may- and hopefully will- lead to reflection, research into recent historical events, and believing in the power of taking action to safeguard our planet, We Are Water Protectors is exceptional, arguably imperative, reading. Be sure to take time and read through the entirety of the book’s back matter: More on Water Protectors, Further Reading, Glossary, Illustrator’s Note, as well as the Earth Steward and Water Protector Pledge for readers of the book.

“My friend Earth pours the summer rain to fill stream flowing down mountains through the fields to the rivers to the sea. Sometimes she pours too much rain, flooding towns and meadows and roads. Until she dries the land.”. A read that perhaps hits more deeply- or as urgently as ever- My Friend Earth reads like a luminous lullaby to our earth with a few quietly placed reminders of how capricious our environment has become. Written by Newbery Medal winner Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by acclaimed creator Francesca Sanna (The Journey), My Friend Earth takes readers through an expansive poetic tour of our planet. We see everything the Earth tends to upon waking “from a winter nap” to the time “when cold comes again….and the silent seed is cradled in the dark soil. Watching. Waiting. To fly up again in the warm bright sun of spring!”.

Earth acts as a soothing omnipresence when she helps and guides everything from zebra babies searching for their mothers, “the mole tunneling in the underdark” and “the spider spinning silver” but is also a fearsome destructive force when winds and waters fall much too strongly and overwhelm our world. Francesca Sanna’s illustrations are wonderfully lush (page end to page end is gorgeously awash); the die-cuts are subtle and mesmerizing and act as a way to get readers even more invested in both the story and in the intricacies of the earth itself. A graceful tiding of all we must fight to protect, My Friend Earth is a beautiful read. It would be a terrific title to pair other climate change and earth-aware reads such as Most of the Better Natural Things in the World or A Stone Sat Still; or with a title that inspires specific environmental conservation such as We Are Water Protectors, discussed above.

I received copies of these titles courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own. Titles have been published and are currently available.

Author: michelle@fabbookreviews

Children's Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.

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