Week-end Book Review/PaperTigers Book of the Month: “One Well” by Rochelle Strauss, illustrated by Rosemary Woods PLUS “Ryan and Jimmy” by Herb Shoveller

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

[As we move into our new theme of Water, this post reprints our review of two titles in Kids Can Press’ superb CitizenKid series; One Well is also our current Book of the Month]

Rochelle Strauss, illustrated by Rosemary Woods,
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth
Kids Can Press, 2007.

Ages 8-12

Herb Shoveller,
Ryan and Jimmy: And the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together
Kids Can Press 2006.

Ages 8-12

There would be no life on this planet without it: every organism on earth needs water to survive. Both One Well and Ryan and Jimmy demonstrate in different ways just how precious a resource water is and how we have a responsibility to look after it and ensure that it is kept safe and clean and indeed available.

One Well uses the symbolism of a well to represent all the water on the earth. Animals come to the well to drink; fish live in the well, we need the well for our own drinking water… but the well is now severely at risk from pollution and over-exploitation. We all have a responsibility to be “Well Aware” and to teach our children to become Well Aware also. This is a good resource to set that in motion. The enormity of the facts and figures given is by no means diminished by the symbolism here; indeed, the notion of the well allows even young children to grasp the notion of just how precious our water is and that we cannot take it for granted. Rosemary Wood’s illustrations which swirl through the text intensify the image of the well but also ensure that the metaphor is not taken too literally.

Meanwhile, Ryan and Jimmy is the truly remarkable story of a six-year-old Canadian boy’s determination to build a well in Africa and the series of life-altering events that followed. He was so horrified to hear at school that there were children in the world who did not have safe drinking-water, that he doggedly set about raising money to build a well in Africa. News of his determination filtered into other people’s lives and the ripple effect of his actions eventually gave rise to the setting up of Ryan’s Well Foundation. A class pen pal scheme brought Ryan into contact with Akana Jimmy. They then met in 2000 when Ryan and his family travelled to Uganda to see for themselves “Ryan’s well” in Jimmy’s village. Then in 2002, Jimmy’s life was dramatically changed when rebels attacked his village and captured him to be a child soldier. Although he managed to escape, his life was now at risk. Eventually, he managed to get to Canada, where he was awarded refugee status and became a member of Ryan’s family. Now, both Ryan and Jimmy are involved in the Foundation and have travelled all over the world, raising awareness about the importance of clean water. To date, 319 wells have been built in Africa, South America and India, bringing clean water to more than 450 000 people.

Full of photographs and pictures of letters and drawings, laid on a background of varying bright, earthy African colors and patterns, the book is visually exciting; the story is even more so. The writing is well paced and serves the facts up straight – if it aims to inspire, it certainly succeeds.

These two books compliment each other well (indeed One Well actually cites Ryan’s Well Foundation) and are invaluable resources both for the introduction of water as a school topic and for follow-up reading at home. One Well gives the facts and figures and reasons why we should be taking care of this precious resource; Ryan and Jimmy provides the inspiration for even young children to recognise that every little bit helps and that they can make a difference.

Marjorie Coughlan
November 2007

Social Justice Challenge: Water

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Social Justice Challenge 2010This month’s focus for the Social Justice Challenge is Water, a precious, life-giving resource that many of us take for granted. It is only relatively recently that awareness is growing everywhere of water being a finite resource. Many of us just have to turn on the tap for a ready supply of clean water for drinking, washing, even playing – but it is shocking indeed to think that nearly half the people living in the developing world do not have access to clean water; and that, according to UNICEF:

“Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with poor hygiene practices, kills and sickens thousands of children every day, and leads to impoverishment and diminished opportunities for thousands more.”

Ryan and Jimmy: and the Well in Africa that Brought Them Together, by Herb Shoveller (Kids Can Press, 2006)Older Brother and Little Bother cite a statistic they believe comes from WaterAid that 3 people die every 10 minutes because of a lack of clean water. In an attempt to turn this remote, hopeless-sounding figure into something they can get their heads round, we are currently reading Ryan and Jimmy: And the Well in Africa that Brought Them Together by Herb Shoveller (Kids Can Press, 2006). This is the wonderful and inspiring story of how the determination of one small boy in Canada, Ryan Hreljac, captured people’s imagination so that he was able to raise the $2,000 needed to buy a well for a community in Uganda – and then go on raising money to fund drills for more wells – so that now, the Ryan’s Well Foundation, with the now eighteen-year-old Ryan at its head, is working to bring safe drinking water and increase sanitation and hygiene awareness in 16 countries around the world.

Another engaging book and superb resource for raising young people’s awareness about water is (more…)