________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 12 . . . . February 2, 2007

cover One Well: The Story of Water on Earth.

Rochelle Strauss. Illustrated by Rosemary Woods.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2007.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-55337-954-6.
Subject Heading:
Water-Juvenile literature.
Grades 3-8 / Ages 8-13.
Review by Renée Englot.
***½ /4


6 563 107 901, give or take a few. That's how many people there are on Earth, and that number is growing every day. More people mean a greater demand for water. But this growing population isn't the only thing putting a strain on our water supplies. The average person today uses about six times more water than a hundred years ago.
A growing population also means we need more space. As towns and cities have grown to accommodate all these people, they gobble up land, which also affects nearby water. Houses, buildings and roads sometimes take the place of wetland habitats where animals live, which puts species at risk. They also change the way rainwater, lands and streams flow. And pavement and concrete block rainwater from refilling underground water supplies.
There are more of us, and our demand for water at home, in industry and in agriculture has grown tremendously. But all the water we have is all the water we ever will have. There is no more water now than there was 100 or 1000 or even 10 000 years ago. And there will be no more 100 years from now, when the population may be closer to 10 billion.
We need to find a balance between our demands for water and the amount of water that's available to us.

One Well: The Story of Water on Earth asks readers to think of all the water on earth as belonging to one well: a well which is shared by all the people and animals of the earth; a well which is influenced by all of the activities on our planet. The text presents information about where water is found on our planet, how the water cycle functions, the importance of water for plants, for animals and their habitats, and for people, about access to water, about the impact of pollution, and about efforts to protect our water supply.

     This captivating book has been very well designed, and the cover art is attractive. The title is intriguing, while simple enough to be informative. Opening the front covers, the reader is drawn further into exploring the book. The title page and copyright page feature colour illustrations. The layout breaks information into manageable chunks. Each two page layout focuses on a single theme which is made obvious by a title. Most of the titles are tied directly to the well theme which carries throughout the book. Each two page spread features a block of text of approximately 125 to 250 words in length on one of the pages while the other page is filled with bright, attractive illustrations. In addition, there are text boxes on the illustrated pages which feature surprising facts related to the focus of that layout. Readers daunted by the amount of text can focus on these smaller bits of information. These blurbs contain unique information likely to catch attention and interest casual readers in reading further.

      Amazingly, the text is simple enough for early elementary students to grasp while, at the same time, it contains facts likely to surprise even scientifically and environmentally minded adults. The author is skilled at choosing analogies to which children can relate. These are further reinforced by the illustrator. For example, a tanker truck filled with water is used to represent all of the water on Earth. Enough water is poured out to fill a large bathtub - this represents the freshwater on Earth. From this tub, nine cans of pop are filled. They represent the freshwater we have access to. A pictograph uses buckets to symbolize average daily water use per person. Such examples convert numbers which could easily be overwhelming into manageable chunks of information.

      Woods' acrylic paintings create the impression of a colourful, patchwork quilt. She visually connects the people and places of our world, reinforcing the sense that we all gather around one well. There is much to look at and think about in the illustrations.

     Strauss is an environmental education consultant who also authored the multiple award winning Tree of Life: The Incredible Biodiversity of Life on Earth. Strauss gently teaches very important lessons about sustainability. Her environmental message is effective, giving in neither to preaching nor gloomy messages of doom. Her assessment of the issues surrounding water is accurate, but her call to action is empowering for children. The last two two page spreads feature suggestions for children on how to become more "Well Aware," and information for parents and teachers on how to encourage children to become "Well Aware."

      The text has an index to help with the location of specific information. The book would have benefitted from a glossary and a list of further reading suggestions. It will be very useful with many science curricula, most especially on topics of the water cycle, animal habitats, pollution, environmental education, and sustainable development. It could easily be used from Kindergarten through high school.

     The message of this book is extremely important and timely; furthermore, it is well presented. Get One Well into the hands of as many children, parents, and teachers as possible.

Highly Recommended.
Renée Englot, a former junior high school teacher, is now working as a professional storyteller in school settings. She holds a Master of Arts in Children's Literature.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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