________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 37 . . . . June 2, 2017


The Water Walker.

Joanne Robertson.
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, 2017.
32 pp., hardcover, $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-77260-038-4.

Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


AnishinaabKwe author Joanne Robertson has produced this illustrated story, based on actual events, which marries the First Nations' sense of oneness with the natural world with 21st century concerns for the environment.

internal art      Nokomis – 'Grandmother' in Ojibwe – feels strongly connected to Nibi, a personification of the element of water.

But one day, a wise ogimaa [chief] told her,

"In my lifetime, the day will come when an ounce of water costs

more than an ounce of gold. What are you going to do about it?"

Like an arrow, his words pierced Nokomis' heart. She looked around.

She saw how people were disrespecting the water, wasting it,
making it unfit for life.

      Nokomis and other women try to raise awareness of the issue by beginning a march. This expands to become a marathon statement of concern involving walking around all five Great Lakes and down the St. Lawrence River "every spring for seven years". The power of the protest is visually reinforced by a spread which shows a map of the waterway with six small figures and a bright read bubble car setting out along the first northern lakeshore.

internal art      When the message is still not received, the women take up posts on each of the salt water shores of Turtle Island [North America]. In the fourth vigil, Nokomis and supporters are on the Arctic coast.

In the frigid north, the ice was five feet thick. Nokomis and the
Mother Earth Water Walkers put semaa [sacred tobacco] on the
Nibi, singing their thanks, respect and love.
Saltwater tears filled the Mother Earth Water Walkers' eyes,
as the four salt Nibi met Lake Superior.

internal art      If there is a solution to the tainting of the waters of the earth, it lies in the steadfastness of Nokomis and her friends to their cause and the outright challenge to readers of this book right at the end.

      The watercolor and pen illustrations are somewhat childlike, but rich in detail of both the events of the story and of the Ojibwe culture which is its backbone. A picture glossary at the end of the book defines the unfamiliar words used in the text.

      The Water Walker, a runner-up in Second Storey Press's inaugural Aboriginal Writing Contest, is a worthwhile addition to classroom and public libraries and a resource for discussions about First Nations and ecology.


Ellen Heaney is a retired children's librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - June 2, 2017.

CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive