We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade. Roaring Brook Press, New York, NY, 2020.
First, let me say the illustrations in We Are Water Protectors are breathtaking and well worth the purchase price of the book, but that makes sense as it won the 2021 Caldecott Award for best illustration of a children’s book. The book tells of a story told long ago:
“My people talk of a black snake that will destroy the land…They foretold that it wouldn’t come for many, many years.”
Grandmother tells the young girl that water is the first medicine. It surrounded her before she was born. All life depends on water. Clean water. But the black snake is going to come and poison the waters. Indeed, the black snake is here now. As depicted by Michaela Goade, the black snake is an oil pipeline with the head of a terrifying snake. It winds its way through tiny plants and animals.
The illustrations, in watercolor and mixed media, are simply gorgeous. Butterflies and hummingbirds, deer, bear, and a majestic white bird all are shown as dependent on the flowing, sparkling river.
The young girl shouts, as she rallies her people: “Take courage! I must keep the black snake away from my village’s water.”
The final page depicts a protest rally of many indigenous people holding signs proclaiming, “Water is Life.” Michaela Goade says she was “deeply inspired by the solidarity” at Standing Rock and she “…wanted the illustrations to convey kinship and unity, while also representing a diverse group of Indigenous Nations and allies.” Lindstrom is Anishinaabe/Metis and Goade is of Tlingit descent.
This book would be an important addition to a teacher’s environmental/outdoor education collection. I, personally, could sit and look at the illustrations over and over, but more importantly, it can be used as a call to action. A running theme and poem that is repeated throughout the book says it all:
With our songs
And our drums.
We are still here.”
But without action, not only plants and animals could disappear, but people as well.
If the environmental crisis facing us today seems all too overwhelming, here’s a site that suggests simple things we all can do. Pick one. Each small gesture can make a difference.