This past Tuesday was International Day of the Girl. To help celebrate, two Perfect Picture Book Friday bloggers, Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal and Vivian Kirkfield at Picture Books Help Kids Soar, highlighted two wonderful books about Mighty Girls. These reviews, and my recent purchase of an autographed copy of today’s book, spurred me to feature it as a Perfect Picture Book.
Title: The Water Princess: Based on the Childhood Experience of Georgie Badiel
Written By: Susan Verde
Illustrated By: Peter H. Reynolds
Publisher/date: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin Young Readers Group)/ 2016
Suitable for Ages: 5-8
Themes/Topics: Africa, drinking water, women’s work
Opening: “I am Princess Gie Gie. My kingdom…the African sky, so wide and so close.”
Brief Synopsis: Inspired by the childhood of model Georgie Badiel in Burkina Faso, The Water Princess follows Princess Gie Gie as she trudges on a long journey to obtain clean drinking water.
Links to Resources:
- Learn about access to water and water-related issues, including how a school, classroom or family can help provide clean water for communities that lack it.
- Describe your typical day; describe Gie Gie’s day. Compare and contrast your day with Gie Gie’s day: what does she do that you don’t? what is the same?
- Discuss why you think Gie Gie is a princess.
Why I Like this Book:
The Water Princess is a gentle rendering of a very difficult subject: the lack of clean, drinking water in too many parts of the world, and the disproportionate burden this places on girls and women. And while adults and even many children know the reality of water scarcity in other parts of the world, as we awaken with Gie Gie and walk step by step to the well, we learn much more than the mere facts of the problem; we learn the personal costs as well.
Peter Reynolds’ earth-toned illustrations help draw us into Gie Gie’s arid world. He depicts her with corn-rowed hair, bracelets and earrings. She appears every bit like the princesses we think of when we hear that term. And like these princesses, we learn she has a kingdom and rules animals and nature in her realm. But, she cannot “make the water come closer”, or the “water run clearer.” As she rises before day break to start the journey to the distant well she is, alas, “too sleepy to put on my crown.” Instead, a pot rests on her braids. As it rests on the braids of too many girls and women today. Thankfully, the story ends with Princess Gie Gie’s dream: that someday clean drinking water will be near.
A Note about Craft:
By telling the story in first person, Ms. Verde draws the reader immediately into the story. We experience Gie Gie’s world as she walks through it, step by step. We learn of her likes and dislikes, her powers, and that which she yearns to control. This first-person perspective brings immediacy as well as helps build empathy for the girl-child who would rather don crown than pot, would rather dance and play with friends than draw water, who dreams of “flowing, cool, crystal-clear water” nearby. “Someday…”
The collaborative team uses an Afterward to great effect as they ask readers to “imagine” life without water, share the true story of Georgie Badiel and the summers spent in her grandmother’s village hauling water, the scope of the problem, and links to the Ryan Wells Foundation and the Georgie Badiel Foundation, both of which build and help maintain wells.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!