Edited by Radhika Menon and Sandhya Rao, illustrated by Nirupama Sekhar,
Water Stories from Around the World
An international assortment of water stories converge in this beautifully presented anthology, with tales from India, Botswana, Spain, Nigeria, China and Greece, as well as the Australian Aboriginal and Native American traditions, and “The Green Man”, a “story from many myths”. This was the first one I turned to, since I’ve always been curious about him – and I loved the way the story was narrated wholly as a reported experience within the context of the here and now, making the Green Man relevant to contemporary children as a metaphor for looking after our water, whether or not we believe the story to be true.
Each of the nine storytellers represented here has a very distinctive voice but the one thing they all have in common is that they grip the reader right from the first sentence. And among the stories themselves, there’s something for everyone: magic, retribution, monsters, dragons, giants, deities, misunderstandings, humor, pride… Within so much variety, the only the thing they all have in common is water. Perhaps my favourite story is “House of Sun and Moon”, where water herself is personified. Water gathering up “all her children” in her skirts – and that means “oceans, seas, glaciers, rivers, streams, brooks, lakes, ponds and puddles” – plus everything plant and animal that lives in them, is just the kind of image to capture readers’ imaginations. Another story, “A Well is Born”, set in India, brings the book right up to date. Told in verse, it reveals how the observation of a farmer saves the day for an engineer drilling for water. Even so, the origins of the ballad go back to a traditional myth from the Ivory Coast.
Helping to bring the stories together as a collection are Niruoama Sekhar’s colourful illustrations. Her style shifts to allow each story some individuality but certain motifs are carried through the whole book. Water splashes energetically in a pleasing variety of pattern and tone; and in those places where she incorporates the white background of the page, there is a batik-like quality to her painting.
Two double-page spreads at the end add to the educative possibilities of this excellently presented book. Firstly, a “Water Timeline” from 10,000 BC to the present day, with an information box that asks us to ponder the question “Where have we gone wrong?”, faced as we are “with the threat of a world with less and less water”, and it suggests the relevance of creating a timeline of water for our own neighborhoods. And secondly, a “Water Facts” spread that centers on India and will be of equal interest to readers both within and outside the country. This is followed by an immensely readable introduction to all the contributors that connects each of them with their parts of the book. Tulika have also created a website to accompany the book, and it’s well worth a visit.
All in all, this is an excellent anthology that is likely to become a firm favourite in homes and schools alike.