Compiled by Alice Curry, illustrated by Jan Pienkowski,
A River of Stories: Tales and Poems from Across the Commonwealth
Commonwealth Education Trust, 2011.
This is the place to encounter Nkalimeva, lajablesse, gosile, Mawu and more (and find out who they are) - a global assortment of regional characters brought to life in lively stories and evocative poetry from all 52 Commonwealth of Nations Member States. This wealth of legend and contemporary observation is all brought together by the unifying theme of water and through Jan Pieńkowski's gorgeous illustrations
Edited by Radhika Menon and Sandhya Rao, illustrated by Nirupama Sekhar,
Water Stories from Around the World
Different storyteller voices make this a lively anthology of stories from a variety of traditions, all brought together with bright, colourful illustrations. Back matter includes Water Facts and a Water Timeline from 10,000BC to the present day.
Picture Book Stories
Jeannine Atkins, illustrated by Hector Viveros Lee,
Get Set! Swim!
Lee & Low Books, 1998.
Jessenia is excited to be on the swimming team and heading for her first meet at a rival team's pool. Her family is there to cheer her on, as she learns not to be distracted by her opponents' apparent advantages – and win or lose, her proud Mami has a special gift for Jessenia that will remind her of her Puerto Rican roots. This is an exciting story that seamlessly blends in the dynamics of first-generation and inter-generational understanding.
David Bouchard, illustrated by Zhong-Yabg Huang,
The Mermaid's Muse: The Legend of the Dragon Boats
Raincoast Books, 2000.
Gorgeously illustrated, this is the story of falsely disgraced poet Qu Yun's blossoming friendship with the sea dragon who can take on many guises, including that of a beautiful mermaid. When Qu Yun agrees to go with the dragon to the ocean floor, the villagers believe he has been attacked and rush to his rescue. Qu Yun abjures them to see with their hearts but it is too late to save the dragon, and now the scenario is re-enacted every year in the traditional Dragon Boat Festivals…
Dawn Casey, illustrated by Anne Wilson,
The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac
Barefoot Books, 2008.
Ready... Steady... GO!' — this is an exuberant retelling of one of the legends of how the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac came to be and in the order we know them: the animal race ordered by the Jade Emperor, the King of Heaven. All the key elements are there, including how the cat and the rat were
the best of friends until Rat pushed Cat into the water and hopped ashore to win the race, explaining why cats and rats hate each other to this day.
Janet Costa Bates, illustrated by Lambert Davis,
Lee & Low Books, 2010.
A heart-warming intergenerational story in which a young girl Cora is determined to find the perfect birthday present for her grandmother. When she leans about how Grandmother sends mantenhas, special silent greetings to her sister across the ocean in Cape Verde, whom she hasn't seen for forty years, Cora hits on the perfect gift…
The Magic Boat
Henry Holt and Company, 1990.
A traditional Chinese tale about the honest, kind-hearted Chang who is tricked out of his magic dragon boat by Tricky Ying, whom Chang actually rescued from a flood. Aided by his friends a white cat, an ant, a queen bee and a crane, Chang sets about getting it back. Exquisitely illustrated, this delightful story contains a great combination of folkloristic elements: good and bad characters, magic, talking animals, a quest and a come-uppance.
Jennifer Owings Dewey, illustrated by Benton Yazzie,
The Shaman and the Water Serpent
University of New Mexico Press, 2007.
Believing the water serpent to be the harbinger of long awaited rain, the Shamans of the Puebloan people in New Mexico etch images of the water serpent onto rocks while they pray. This simple and effective book draws young readers into the culture of the Pueblo people and is a reminder of the important role of water, often determining times of difficulty or of plenty.
Katrina Germein, illustrated by Bronwyn Bancroft,
Big Rain Coming
Clarion Books, 1999.
Simple text and stunning illustrations combine to express the joy of long-awaited rain in an Aboriginal Australian community. Old Stephen is the first to know rain is on its way, but there's still a whole week to wait, and as each day passes, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…, the waiting comes close to unbearable, until at last…!
Rachna Gilmore, illustrated by Pulak Biswas,
Tradewind Books, 2011.
A young girl is saved from monsoon floods when her parents push her into a tree, along with her mother's flute that turns out to have magical properties. The flute will eventually help her to find a new, loving home, after she has had to endure cruel treatment from the aunt and uncle who had taken her in. Told simply but expressively, this timeless story is also strikingly illustrated.
Maya Christina Gonzalez,
I Know the River Loves Me / Yo sé que el río me ama
Children's Book Press, 2009.
A girl visits a very special best friend, the River. Highlighted by the gorgeous illustrations, the girl's lyrical prose sings out her knowledge that the river loves her. In turn, she is careful to take care of the river too. This is a gentle way to introduce young children to the mutual benefits of showing love and respect to their natural environment.
The Water Dragon
Better Link Press, 2012.
Beautifully told and illustrated, this story reaches a surprising conclusion when the courageous Ah Bao sets off on a quest to find the water dragon he believes will be able to help him, after the magic red stone he found not only brings him and his village food and wealth, but also appears to be the reason for the worrying lack of rain.
Tony Johnston, illustrated by Ed Young,
G.P.Putnam's Sons, 1987.
An innovative approach both to a counting book and to what whales are saying when they sing: they are counting! Young readers will be caught up in the whales' exhilaration as they pass the numbers between them, surely joining in the final shout of "TEN!"; and will be equally captivated by Young's stunning artwork.
Kimiko Kajikawa, illustrated by Ed Young
Philomel Books, 2009.
Based on Lafcadio Hearn's 1897 story "A Living God", this is the story of a respected farmer known to all as Ojiisan, grandfather, who burns his own crops up on the high ground to draw the local villagers away from the sea, thereby saving them from a tsunami that only he has seen coming. Stunningly illustrated in gouache, pastel and collage that is particularly effective in depicting the catastrophic turmoil of the tsunami.
Gail Langer Karwoski, illustrated by Connie McLennan
River Beds: Sleeping in the World's Rivers
Sylvan Dell Publishing, 2008.
A delightfully presented book that combines a child's bedtime with a factual tour around ten river creatures from around the world, as they prepare for sleep in their various habitats. For more wide-awake moments, there are good activities at the end of the book including map-reading skills for both young and older children.
The Water Angel's Love: A Nepalese Tale
Pilgrims Publishing, June 2002.
A tiny book about a water angel with a big heart. Despite the princes who want to marry her, the water angel only has eyes for the sun. After many years of unrequited love, she undergoes a surprising transformation... This sweet story from a Nepalese folktale, illustrated strikingly in primary colours, will change the way readers look at sunflowers for ever after!
World Water Watch
Greenwillow Books, 1993.
Children in Alaska, Mexico, Antarctica, Chile, Norway and Maui introduce young readers to six animals (sea otters, green sea turtles, penguins, Juan Fernandez fur seals, polar bears and humpback whales) that rely on the sea, followed by more factual text about the dangers these animals face from humans. Topped and tailed by a memorable little rhyme, an ever relevant reminder to look after the sea.
Adapted and translated by Enrique R. Lamadrid and Juan Estevan Arellano, illustrated by Amy Cordova,
Juan the Bear and the Water of Life: La Acequia de Juan del Oso
Paso Por Aqui Series on the Nuevomexicano Literary Heritage, University of New Mexico Press, 2011.
A story that takes the character of super-strong Juan del Oso from local New-Mexican folklore to explain the origins of the nineteenth-century waterways that irrigate the Upper Mora Valley in New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a marvel of engineering to this day. Richly illustrated and a deeply satisfying read, interweaving history and legend.
Chronicle Books, 2008.
In this wordless picture book a little girl plays in the waves at the edge of the shore, while seagulls join in the fun – but these are no ordinary waves because they appear to play back; and this in turn adds a thrilling frisson for the wee girl and young readers alike! A very cleverly designed book that will bewitch readers of all ages.
From a poem by Alejandro Cruz Martinez, illustrated by Fernando Olivera,
The Woman who Outshone the Sun / La mujer que brillaba aún más que el sol
Children's Book Press, 1997.
This beautiful legend of Lucia Zenteno comes from the oral tradition of the Zapotec Indians of Oaxaca, Mexico. The river loves Lucia and so, when she is driven from the town because she is different, the river goes with her. Drought follows until the townspeople find Lucia and apologise. Gorgeous illutrations full of unexpected details and perspectives.
Judith Morecroft, illustrated by Bronwyn Bancroft,
Malu Kangaroo: How the First Children Learnt to Surf
Little Hare, 2007.
An endearing story about how surfing, that quintessentially Australian sport, was introduced to "the First Children" a long, long time ago – somehow the first surf board being made by a kangaroo, the Malu of the title, is totally convincing within its setting here of lyrical language and exuberant illustration, and the underlying humor will appeal to young readers.
New Frontier Publishing, 2010.
In this gentle story, a girl, the story's narrator, strikes up a friendship with a seal she calls Tatiara, but can only watch her from the shore because of the back brace she has to wear. Tatiara keeps her entertained but doesn't understand why the girl never joins her in the sea. Then one day, the girl learns the brace can come off, and it's not long before she's heading for the water…
New Frontier Publishing, 2008.
A young boy goes out in the family's boat Pilgrim with his father for the first time, early in the morning to be home in time for breakfast. Narrated in the first person, Oliver captures perfectly the blend of excitement and nervousness and the calming influence of the nature around him, and all illustrated in gorgeous lino cuts that capture the colors and textures of land and sea. For older readers, the allegorical depth of this multi-layered story will become more apparent.
Little Hare, 2008.
When Dougie learns how his grandfather found water by water witching, he is determined to find water at their own farm. He works all day in the heat of the Australian Outback, heedless of his sisters' teasing, digging where the sticks have pointed downwards - and to everyone's joy, human's and animal's alike, his perseverance pays off. This joyous story is set off by Ormerod's palette that perfectly conveys the seering heat and the cool, refreshing water that is theirs at last.
Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.
A fictional account of the discovery of Hawaii that tells of five brothers who landed on the islands two thousand years ago. One of them, Manu, is desperate to get back home until he finds a wounded seal who becomes his Dog-of-the-Sea-Waves and who will save his life one day… Vignettes of locally unique and/or endangered wildlife are explained at the end and, with their accurate detail, add an extra highlight to Rumford's lovely, more sweeping watercolor landscapes.
A River Dream
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1988.
Uncle Mark sends a box of fishing flies to his sick nephew Mark. Suddenly the landscape changes outside Mark's window and he embarks on an unexpected fishing trip during which he reaches a milestone in his understanding: you don't have to keep the fish to enjoy fishing: and besides, you might catch a mermaid one day… A convincing blend of a dream-like idyll (Mark is depicted in his pyjamas) and a realistic portrayal of nature.
The Lost Lake
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1989.
When Luke's Dad takes him camping in the wilderness to the Lost Lake of his childhood, they discover that the "Lost Lake" hads been found by lots of other people. Their determination to find their own, new Lost Lake not only stretches Luke's endurance but enriches the father and son's relationship; and there's an added bonus waiting one morning… Again, luminescent illustrations enhance the story.
Mama: A True Story
Based on the true story of a baby hippo that survived being swept out to sea from Kenya's Sabaki River following the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, and then found a new Mama in a surprising quarter. Told graphically, the only words being a few monosyllabic speech bubbles, Winter captures the essence of the story perfectly for very young readers.
Ting-xing Ye, illustrated by Harvey Chan,
Three Monks, No Water
Annick Press, 1997.
Through the vital chore of bringing water up the mountain to the temple that one, then two, then three Buddhist monks share, they finally learn to divide labor fairly and live in harmony. Author Ting-Xe Ye has invented an amusing and memorable fable to explain the saying she grew up with, when she and her sibling tried to avoid chores: “Three monks, no water”.
Wong Herbert Yee,
A Drop of Rain
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 1995.
All the family gathers round to find a way to stop Baby crying, only to discover, when they've all exhausted themselves, that those aren't tears on Baby's cheek but raindrops! Very small children will delight on all the exertion and family love that exude from the words and perfectly attuned illustrations.
Wong Herbert Yee,
Who Likes Rain?
Henry Holt, 2007.
A little girl compares who does and who does not like the rain in her neighbourhood. The perfect antidote to a rainy day for young children, this combination of charming illustrations and a poem that relies on attractive onomatopoeia will remind children (and grown ups!) that they can still have fun outside when it's raining.
Tales of Water: A Child's View/Cuentos del Agua: Una Visión de un Niño
IUCN / Umbrage Editions, 2006.
Published on the occasion of the 4th World Water Forum in Mexico City, this bilingual (English and Spanish) exploration of children and water usage in a selection of countries around the world is a photographic tour de force. Each section is introduced with an overview of the current status of water in that continent, as well as quotations from children. Though not specifically a children's book, it is a valuable resource for introducing global water issues to young people.
Arlene Chan, illustrated by Song Nan Zhang,
Awakening the Dragon: The Dragon Boat Festival
Tundra Books, 2004.
An excellent introduction for ages 8+ to the cultural and historical traditions of Chinese dragon boat racing, such as a brief outline of the legend of Qu Yuan (see above), feeding the dragon or the appearance of the demon slayer, this visually exciting book not only explains the racing rules but also emphasises the contemporary relevance and international appeal of the annual dragon Boat Festival.
Our World of Water
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), 2009.
Illustrated throughout with high quality photographs, this superbly conceived book focuses on children from six countries around the world and how they use water. As well as a general context, each section provides information about a specific “special time” in the children’s lives. Highlighted quotations express the importance of water in the children’s own words. End matter provides global water facts encouraging children to think about their own use of water.
Tara Books, 2011.
A stunning book that will enthral readers of all ages, highlighting a variety of sea creatures, each depicted in different bright colours and influenced by the Mithila folk painting from Bihar in Eastern India of Rambharos Jha's childhood. Each image is accompanied by a short, personalised description by the artist.
Rossiti Aishah Rashidi, illustrated by Farrah Ashiela Samsuri,
Puteri Tioman: The Green Turtle
RainTree (Malaysia), 2011.
By telling the story of one turtle’s life from conception to her journey back to Malaysian island of her birth to lay her first batch of eggs, this beautifully presented book presents the general story of the green turtle as an endangered species – the dangers they and all turtles face, mainly caused by human exploitation and pollution of the oceans, and what we can all do to prevent their extinction.
Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life: A Story of Sustainable Farming
Lee & Low Books, 2009.
Focusing on rice farming in Bali, young readers learn how important water is both agriculturally and culturally. Readers learn about the rice cycle and trace Bali's journey back towards agricultural sustainability, after the almost irremediable disaster caused by government policy in the 1960s. Plenty of photographs throughout and a map and website resources at the end all help to engage readers, and an Author's Note helps readers to consider the book's relevance to their own lives.
Vidya Shah, with photographs by Parthiv Shah,
Narmada: A Pictorial Journey Down the River
Pratham Books (India), 2010.
Via the narrative device of a grandmother telling stories to her two grandchildren, readers are taken on a journey to explore India's third largest river, the Narmada, and one of only three that flow East to West. The book covers the river's ecology and cultural significance, including its importance as a pilgrim destination. Illustrated with stunning photographs that also help to make the book accessible to readers outside India.
Ryan and Jimmy: And the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together
Kids Can Press 2006.
The truly remarkable story of Ryan, a six-year-old Canadian boy's determination to build a well in Africa and the series of life-altering events that followed, not just for him and his family, but for a Ugandan boy called Jimmy whose life became endangered by civil war. Ryan's Well Foundation has since brought clean water to more than 450,000 people worldwide.
Rochelle Strauss, illustrated by Rosemary Woods,
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth
Kids Can Press, 2007.
Using the symbolism of a well to represent all the water on the earth, this superbly presented book helps young children to understand how precious water is in our world. All living creatures, including we humans, rely on the well for survival... but the well is now severely at risk from pollution and over-exploitation. This is a good resource to set in motion an understanding of the importance of being "Well Aware".
Posted July 2012