Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, December 19, 2014

To water, To life Al agua, A la vida

Back in October teacher librarian extraordinaire, John Schumacher, and blogger at Watch. Connect. Read. began compiling a 2014 Best Books Lists.   To have all these selections in one spot is invaluable in directing the reading lives of your students, colleagues, friends and you.  It gives you a chance to compare what you have read and what you might need or want to read.  When the New York Public Library released their Children's Books: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing 2014 earlier this week, one title in particular, already on my pile, caught my attention.

Having spent my life in a state whose motto is Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circumspice, If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you, water, streams, rivers and lakes, is an inescapable part of my immediate world.  Water Rolls, Water Rises El agua rueda, el agua sube (Children's Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books Inc., October 1, 2014) written by Pat Mora with illustrations by Meilo So and translations by Adriana Dominguez and Pat Mora is a respectful tribute in free verse, in both English and Spanish, to all forms of water.  It reminds us how this essential element connects people all across the planet.

Water rolls
onto the shore
under the sun, under the moon. 

El agua rueda
hacia la orilla
bajo el sol, bajo la luna.

As I walked along the sands of Lake Michigan this morning, even though it was dead calm, it was easy to identify with the words in this first verse.  The play of the wind on the waves along any shore anywhere is a continual constant.  If you have not witnessed these same waves crash upon the shore or climb skyward in a wild wind, it is a sight you need to see. Who has not felt the fingers of fog?  Who has not felt this water cloak days and nights?

Water shapes walls of rock as it wanders or is directed through walls made by man.  Deeply dug wells hold it.  Slight shallow streams guide it.  Loud storms release it.  It is a sculptor, a quencher of thirst, and a composer.

Water gathers in natural containers.  Water provides a home for nature's residents.  Water makes music as it moves.  Silent, speaking softly or roaring water seeks and finds our attention.

More than seventy per cent of Earth's surface is covered in water.  In all its forms the sensory experience of water is priceless.  It sustains life.

As each of the fourteen lyrical lines is read, we are fully aware of the beauty water creates.  Reading them aloud in English and Spanish (thankful my Dad gently pushed me to get a minor in Spanish); we recognize the care Pat Mora gave to her word choices.  She begins slowly with words like

rolls, rises and weaves.

She gives water as fog human qualities readily identified by readers; a hand brushing cat's fur.  If you close your eyes, listening to her use of language, visuals of wild water, quiet water, nurturing water, dancing water and water like a mirror easily come to mind.  Mora excels in her use of alliteration and onomatopoeia.  Here is another sample verse.

In the murmur of marsh wind,
water slumbers on moss,
whispers soft songs far under frog fee.

En el viento susurrante de los pantanos,
el agua duerme sobre el musgo,
murmura suaves canciones bajo patitas de ranas.

With the first two images on the front and back of the dust jacket and book case, Meilo So with sweeping lines evokes the sheer magnificence of water's natural displays.  Within a few page turns younger readers will continue to be fascinated by the variety of landscapes water inhabits.  Older readers will begin to feel as though they are being taken on a world tour as familiar sights appear in the illustrations.

This is exactly what So has done; each picture takes its inspiration from sixteen places around our globe as disclosed in the back matter.  Point of view is modified to generate reverence in the reader or to represent the significance of water in our daily lives.  For the first verse we see waves making their way toward a beach as seagulls fly overhead.  Several groups of people are engaged in activities or simply enjoying the view.  For the other verse I showcased we are closer to the water.  Geese are flying low, ducks are swimming and a frog sits on a lily pad.  Two children are poling a skiff through the reeds.

Her choice of color, its boldness or softness, is dictated by the words of Mora.  Each two-page illustration throughout, rendered in mixed media, will elicit an emotional response in the reader.  It's as if her visuals are a gift to water.

One of my favorites is of the women and children dipping their buckets into a well for water.  We are the water looking up at them as they look down.  The majority of the lower section of the pages is of splashing water with pails tipped to gather what they can.  It's a stunning depiction.

This bilingual ode of gratitude to water, Water Rolls, Water Rises, El agua rueda, el agua sube written by Pat Mora with illustrations by Meilo So and translations by Adriana Dominguez and Pat Mora is elegant and eloquent.  It most certainly will leave readers more appreciative of this invaluable resource but will also promote thoughtful discussions and research.  This is a book not to be missed.  A short author's note is included at the end.

For further information about Pat Mora and Meilo So and their other work visit their websites by following the links embedded in their names.  Pat Mora has a discussion guide which can be used in other subject areas as well as language arts.  This link will take you to a series of video interviews of Pat Mora at Reading Rockets.  Author Julie Danielson and blogger at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast highlights this title at Kirkus and her blog.

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