Being one of those fortunate people, within five minutes the expanse of Lake Michigan is available for me to see, spread out until it touches the far horizon. It is both a humbling and joyful moment. Hey, Water! (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, March 26, 2019) written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis (Wait, Best Frints in the Whole Universe and Now) explores all the marvelous manners in which water touches our everyday existence.
Hey, water! I know you!
You're all around.
Unless you've experienced the lack of it firsthand, the act of turning on a faucet with clean, clear water running out is nothing short of a miracle. (It should never, ever be taken for granted.) How fortunate are we to be able to run through a sprinkler in the hot weather as our lawns or gardens are watered. To stand in a shower and feel it cleanse our bodies is a little bit like heaven.
Have you ever noticed how the water coming out of the end of a hose replicates this same action on a grander scale? Watch a stream as it winds through a forest or field. Watch a river racing toward a larger body of water.
These larger bodies of water are as majestic as an ocean or as peaceful as a lake or as geometrically-shaped as a manmade swimming pool. Who among us has not laughed and jumped in the smallest area of water? Once warmer weather descends, do you see the drops of dew sparkling like diamonds in the early hours of the day?
The shapes of water are found near us and around us. They are found inside our homes and high above our heads in the outdoors. They can be solid and bitter cold but feel as light as a breath of a breeze. Water is recognizable everywhere. Let's look!
The exuberant voice of our youthful girl guide, as penned by Antoinette Portis, has our immediate attention. In her conversation to water, she shifts her focus in a relatable, flawless flow. Water comes from things humans have made, then it moves naturally until it comes back to where we start. Along with the narrative, single words are attached to the descriptive action. A hose trickles water. A stream gurgles with water. Rain roars and pours. Here is a passage.
Water, even when you try to fool me, I know you.
You blast and huff.
You whistle and puff.
From left edge to right edge, back to front, on the open and matching dust jacket and book case, ripples of water, in varying hues of blue form a pleasing welcome pattern. As if block-printed the text appears like another form of water, clouds. The girl, the first-person voice in the narrative, smiles in open invitation. The mask on her face is varnished on the jacket.
On the opening and closing endpapers lighter blue waves wash over the pages and follow on the first and last page turn. On the title page, the girl, seated, grins at us from a bathtub. On the towel rack, a brick-red striped towel hangs. It is matched by a solid-colored rug on the floor. In a puddle next to the tub sits a toy whale.
Rendered with brush and sumi ink with color added digitally, the illustrations brilliantly move from one form of water to the next mirroring shapes. The spray from the faucet (down) is the same as the spray from the sprinkler (up) and from the shower head (down). The s-shape in the trickle attaches to the s-shape in the stream which attaches to the back and forth motion of the river. This is replicated when other groups are gathered and introduced.
A limited color palette elevates each image as does the matte-finished paper. Both enrich the tactile experience for the reader. Antoinette Portis varies the perspective in her pictures bringing us close to the actions or giving us a more panoramic view depending on the action or object. We see the ends of the girl's feet and the tips of her toes next to the light blue trickle of water coming from a bright emerald green hose on the grassy green grass. Huge, no-two-snowflakes-alike visions fall from the sky as we look down on a tiny version of the girl wearing winter clothes and rolling another snowball toward a standing snowman wearing a top hat.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for the word puddle and the narrative:
I stomp in you and
scatter droplets everywhere.
The text is placed on the left. On the right a blue puddle is brushed into place. The girl, wearing a red and white checked skirt or coat (We can only see the bottom portion.) is stomping with her yellow boots in the puddle. Drops of water cross the gutter to the left on a background of white on both sides of the double-page picture.
You will read Hey, Water! written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis repeatedly for the share joy and information found in its pages. The use of words, color, design and layout are fabulous in this ode with gratitude to water. At the close of the book Antoinette Portis includes a one-page discussion on the forms, liquid, solid and gas, of water and another page dedicated to the water cycle. This is followed by a conversation on conserving water and five print resources. This title is highly recommended for your personal and professional bookshelves.
To learn more about Antoinette Portis and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. Antoinette has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. At the publisher's website is an essay on the making of this book. Antoinette Portis has a recent interview at Only Picture Books.
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher where titles are featured by those participating in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.