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6 October 2023 WATER DAY by Margarita Engle and Olivia Sua, ill., Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, August 2023, 40p., ISBN: 978-1-6659-1871-8


And when my soul comes to rescue me

I rest my resistance fall piece by piece into peace

And slip like the water back into the sea”

– Edie Brickell & New Bohemians (1990)


“Water days are busy days,

grateful, laughing,

thirsty days.


Neighbors smile and wave,

but Mami can’t stop to chat.

She has to mend our leaky hose

while Papi fixes the rusty pump.


By the time the water man

finally arrives we’ll be ready to fill

the blue tank on our flat red roof 

with clear water

that flows 

like hope 

for my whole

thirsty familia”


“Salt water inching up the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico is progressing more slowly than projected, authorities said Thursday, meaning water systems in the greater New Orleans area that draw drinking water from the river have additional weeks to prepare.

For some small systems downriver, the projected arrival of salt water was pushed back to later this month. For New Orleans and neighboring Jefferson Parish the threat to water system intakes was pushed back from late October to late November. And intakes for large portions of the city and Jefferson Parish now are not expected to see salinity above 250 parts per million, a level that triggers health warnings.

Unexpected October or November rains could further delay and diminish the threat, said Col. Cullen Jones, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans District.

Typically, the Mississippi’s flow is sufficient to prevent salt water from moving far upstream. But for the second year in a row, hot and dry weather has lowered the river, allowing a denser, heavier layer of salt water from the Gulf to push inland.”

– Washington Post, (10/5/2023)


“Contaminated water and poor sanitation are linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio…Some 1 million people are estimated to die each year from diarrhea as a result of unsafe drinking-water, sanitation and hand hygiene. Yet diarrhea is largely preventable, and the deaths of 395,000 children aged under 5 years could be avoided each year if these risk factors were addressed.”

– World Health Organization (9/13/2023)


The human body is two-thirds water. Without fresh water, we soon die. From the earliest days of civilization, people have sought dependable ways to provide fresh water to human populations. Today, population growth coupled with climate change is leading to new challenges for many parts of the world.


Most American kids grow up just turning on the tap, oblivious to the challenges of providing fresh water. But there are actually more than two million Americans who live without basic access to safe drinking water and sanitation. 


Nevertheless, I found Margarita Engle’s WATER DAY to be a shocker. I initially assumed that horse-drawn carts bringing fresh water to Cuban families was a sweet memory passed down by her grandparents. Instead, she explains in her Author's Note that, 


“Today…climate change, polluted groundwater, limited reservoirs for storage, and crumbling pipes for delivery mean that not every neighborhood has water every day. A typical schedule for deliveries from trucks and horse-drawn wagons is every fifth day. Even in the big city of Havana, where two million Cubans live, water might be available for only a couple of hours one or twice per week. As a result, homes store water in tanks, or cisterns, Mosquito fish are added to eat larvae, preventing mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, Zika, and chikungunya. Water is boiled before drinking to prevent bacterial infections. Water shortages make it difficult to follow Covid-prevention instructions for handwashing and mask washing.”


“Bisabuelita is so excited

that she sings to her fruit trees,

promising to water the avocado,

mango, and guava.


I laugh when she tells them

she’ll soon get their toes wet,

because of course they have roots, not feet.

But that is just the way 

happy great-grandmas

love to speak

on water days.”


WATER DAY is illustrated by a talented, young, newcomer. Olivia Sua’s colorful, painted cut-paper illustrations are absolutely stunning. I particularly adore her illustration of the young narrator, her great grandmother, and one of their big, old fruit trees, complete with stylized roots and underground earthworms. Ms. Sua is an up-and-coming illustrator to watch.


Water is a core human need. The poetic, beautiful, and eye-opening WATER DAY will provide a great starting point for discussing this need with preschoolers and early elementary students.


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com





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