The Water Princess
By Susan Verde
Illustrated by Peter H Reynolds
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
What a beautiful thought-provoking picture book. Princess Gie Gie must endure the daily grind of walking long distances to fetch water and walking back again, day in day out. It is time-consuming and monotonous but water is essential for life and so it must be done. Gie Gie wishes so much that water was at her fingertips. She has dreams that one day water will be plentiful for everyone.
This book deserves so much more than a cursory read. Indeed, it needs to be read again and again. We have the cultural aspects of what it is like to live in such a harsh environment and the desperate need for water, something most of us take for granted. We simply turn on a tap and water flows. The closest experience I have to this is after the devastating earthquakes here in Christchurch in 2011 and having to collect rainwater from an old tarpaulin draped over the clothesline and having to dig holes in the backyard to go to the toilet. We were lucky and we had water within a week. Other people here went without water for so much longer. Water was brought in to the city by trucks. There are no trucks where Gie Gie lives.
Gie Gie, despite her reluctance to walk yet another day to collect water, continues to remain hopeful. She is quite frankly, delightful and her love of the land and wide open spaces is heart-warming.
“My kingdom…the African sky, so wide and so close. I can almost touch the sharp edges of the stars.”
The burnt-orange and browns are perfect colour choices for the wonderful illustrations which show just how harsh it is to live in a land with very little water. An environment so different to our own that it is difficult to understand but the illustrations here really create Gie Gie’s world for us.
Gie Gie’s expressions are honest. We see it when she stamps her feet annoyed at having to fetch water yet again, and in her love of the land and family. Overwhelmingly, we see it in her resillence and hope. Gie Gie is strong and detemined and such a wonderful role model for young readers. Love this book to pieces.
A must-have for all school libraries.