The Water Walker is a picture book that tells the true-life story of Nokomis Josephine Mandamin, an Ojibwa grandmother. With its colourful illustrations, the reader is drawn into the tale of Nokomis and her quest to protect Nibi (water) for future generations. Robertson details where Nokomis’ passion for protecting Nibi originates and describes the walking campaign she began with the Mother Earth Water Walkers to bring awareness to the water crisis of the Earth. The book further captivates the reader by including Ojibwe words throughout along with a picture glossary at the end with pronunciations and meanings. Adding to the uniqueness of the book and the powerful story is a more detailed biography of Nokomis as well as more information about the Mother Earth Water Walkers.
With its rich story and powerful message, many relevant curriculum connections can be made. The book is suitable as a read-aloud for younger grades (K-2) and facilitates conversations that ask students: “What is something you love? What would you do to protect it?” Connections can be personal or they can encourage thoughtful discussion about water preservation, tying into different science curriculums such as the Grade 2 unit related to air and water.
In addition to being suitable for younger grades, it can also be used in upper primary, lower junior or even the classrooms of older students depending on the curriculum being covered at the time. One of the most important messages in the book ties perfectly into a topic that is being discussed in many classrooms at all grade levels – what can you do to make a difference in the world? Perfectly linked to the design thinking and inquiry process, this book can be used as a starting point to get students working on inquiry projects related to water preservation, protecting the environment or even a rich discussion about the 7th Generation Principle.
Although the story is a clear and easy read, its message is anything but. The story of Nokomis will resonate with many students and the rich question it ends with – “What are you going to do about it?” – can spark a world of possibilities to motivate students to make a difference in their own lives.
Karen Andrew is a member of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto.