Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Guardians Of Life

For some it starts at an early age.  We are taught by our parents, grandparents or adult mentors, to nurture and care for Earth in her entirety.  For me it was my father.  We spent early morning and evening hours in summer on the lakes and rivers fishing.  He taught me to watch the weather, the time of day and how fish might think.  We walked for miles in the woods in autumn during bow hunting season.  To and from our spot, he was always whispering to me about the various trees and plants and how to look for signs left by all animals.  (On our hunting trips, an animal never lost its life in our presence.  There is a reason for this, but that's another story.)

When it came to water, my dad had rules.  You never put anything on or into the ground which might harm the water table or any animals who frequented that area. You used water sparingly, except for keeping a garden healthy or for drinking.  To this day, I'm the one homeowner digging out hundreds of certain unwanted weeds from my gardens and lawn rather than applying harmful chemicals.

Having lived near many different small lakes and rivers or one of the Great Lakes in Michigan for more than sixty-eight years, I have witnessed their splendor and their challenges due to the careless hands of humans.  We Are Water Protectors (Roaring Brook Press, March 17, 2020) written by Carole Lindstrom (Anishinaabe/Metis and tribally enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe) with illustrations by Michaela Goade (of Tlingit descent and tribally enrolled with the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska) is powerful in both words and artwork.  It speaks to the fierce dedication of Indigenous Peoples to guard our water and invites everyone to stand strong against those who wish to do it harm.

Water is the first medicine, Nokomis told me.

We come from water.

A grandmother chats with her granddaughter explaining how water sustains all life and how water connects us all.  Water is to be cherished.  Its sounds and movements are our sounds and movements.

It is foretold there is a deadly danger coming.  It is described as a black snake.  This black snake will bring destruction to Mother Earth, water and all the flora and fauna.  Unfortunately, the black snake has arrived, poisoning all it touches, poisoning the water.

This granddaughter listening to her elders, places their words in her heart.  There, those words fuel her actions.  She will protect her people.  She will protect their water.  She will lead them in fighting the black snake to preserve Mother Earth.

This young warrior knows this is difficult, but who else is to defend those who cannot defend themselves. Our planet and every living thing upon it, needs us to step forward as its caretakers.  Nokomis taught her granddaughter that water has a spirit, a spirit with memories of individuals' spirits.  For this reason, this daughter of Mother Earth and other Indigenous Peoples are strong in their resolve, battling as one against the black snake.  Join them.

With her meticulously chosen words, Carole Lindstrom, builds on generational traditions with respect to the vital role water plays in all aspects of life.  It is by listening to elders a continuous connection is created.  Each sentence contributes to the energy building within this narrative.

Woven into this story is the repetition of a poetic chorus, like a heartbeat, supplying strength and inspiration to readers.  This pulse ties the other portions together as if we are running in a race with the number of participants swelling until they stop and remain firm like a wall of resistance against a common foe.  Here is a passage.

The river's rhythm runs through my veins.
Runs through my people's veins.

Looking left to right across the matching and open dust jacket and book case, readers find themselves marveling at the beauty of the scene before them.  On the left, toward the upper, left-hand corner wide ripples of water waves in several hues of teal. These move over the spine to the right, in front and behind the granddaughter.  She stands tall, confident in the midst of the water, a beacon for her people.

As you can see, above the water is the royal blue landscape.  It is topped by people clasping hands, a line of defense.  These people extend over the spine to the left edge.  This entire setting is placed beneath a star-studded sky.  Some of the waves of water, as well as the granddaughter, are varnished.

The opening and closing endpapers are a pale yellow.  On the initial title page, the text is placed in a wash of blue.  On the verso and title pages waves span from left to right, providing a canvas for the words.

The illustrations by Michaela Goade, according to an interview were rendered in watercolor with

some colored pencil and gouache detailing with some digital edits in photoshop at the end.

These mostly double-page images are sweeping in the portrayals of water, the land, animals, trees and flowers and the people.  At times other details are super-imposed on the central illustration generating an effect of layers.  One page flows into the next page, like water.  The pages holding the repetitive chorus show an increase of people each time, representing a gathering force.

Each picture asks readers to pause and ponder the reality and the symbolism depicted.  To accentuate the words, Michaela Goade gives us varying points of view.  We are brought close to a hummingbird sipping nectar among flowers as other insects and a snail go about their day.  The colors are brilliantly natural.  We gaze in wonder at a landscape of rolling hills, a wide river (or lake) bordered by dense forests and a small cabin near the water.  A family of bear wander on one shore as a deer drinks from the water on the other shore.  Two birds watch from a distance as the sun lowers in the sky.  The colors are rich shades of golden yellow, pink, purple and blue.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  The canvas is a pale, nearly white, blue.  In the center stands the granddaughter.  She is looking forward, at the reader.  The tresses of her hair become swirls of water flowing out to the edges and bottom of the page.  On top of the water are stunning pink and peach water lilies, lily pads and fish.  Her hands, palms up, are cupped.  This is the picture for the passage quoted previously.

This book, We Are Water Protectors written by Carole Lindstrom with art by Michaela Goade, pays homage to water, the Indigenous Peoples who protect it and invites others to participate.  At the close of the book in a portion titled More On Water Protectors, the author talks about tribal traditions, prophecies and paths.  Her motivation for writing this book were the events surrounding the Standing Rock protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Here is an excerpt.

This is not just a Native American issue; this is a humanitarian issue.  It is time that we all become stewards of our planet so we can protect it for our children and our children's children.

A title is supplied for additional reading as well as a glossary of six terms.  The Illustrator's Note is very informative.  Here is an excerpt.

Standing Rock is just one powerful example of what happens when we rise up, resist, and join together in solidarity for Mother Earth regardless of where we come from.  

The final page, Earth Steward And Water Protector Pledge, has a place for a name and a date.  With certainty I can recommend this book for every personal and professional collection.  Its value is priceless.

To learn more about Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Carole Lindstrom has accounts on Facebook and Twitter.  Michaela Goade has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Here is a link to an activity kit provided by the publisher. This book and its creators are featured at Publishers Weekly, and CBC-Radio-CanadaCarole Lindstrom is highlighted at KidLit 411 and Prairie Public NewsMichaela Goade is showcased at Let's Talk Picture BooksCarole Lindstrom reads their book in this video.

UPDATE:  You will enjoy this interview with Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade about this book at author Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations.

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