An excellent picture book came in this week. The Water Princess by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, is based on the childhood experience of supermodel Georgie Badiel, who grew up in Burkina Faso.
Gie-Gie is a young girl who has to wake up before sunrise each morning to walk with her mother to fetch water. They walk for miles, then bring the muddy water home to boil it for drinking. Then, they get up the next morning and do the same thing.
If that sounds boring, it’s not. Gie-Gie is animated and proud. Reynolds does an amazing job of conveying the young girl’s frustration and determination with just the tilt of a head, or the positioning of an eyebrow. The colors convey the searing heat of the African plains, but also the beauty of the landscape. Verde’s words show us a delightful personality dealing with the weary rhythms of survival without being defeated by them.
I seldom pick the winners, but I would wager that this becomes a contender for the Caldecott, and perhaps the Coretta Scott King awards. It’s an excellent book for developing understanding of different cultures, and the problems faced by millions of people around the world who do not have access to clean water. It would also be an excellent book to accompany units about Africa, or the water cycle for elementary students.