CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 14 . . . . March 2, 2007
Don't Go Near the Water! (Easy-to-Read Spooky Tales).
Veronika Martenova Charles. Illustrated by David Parkins.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2007.
56 pp., pbk., $7.99.
Horror tales, Canadian (English).
Children's stories, Canadian (English).
Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.
Review by Tanya Boudreau.
"Look at all the foam in the water! It's like there is soap in it," I said.
"Maybe it's the water people blowing bubbles," Marcos said. "I'll tell you a story if you want."
"About the water people?" asked Leon.
"Yes, and about a quarry," said Marcos.
"What's a quarry?" I asked.
"It's a huge hole in the ground, where people have dug out rocks," explained Marcos.
"So tell us the story," I said.
Many times children hear warnings from their parents. The author has taken five commonly uttered forbiddances and written them into the "Easy-To-Read Spooky Tales" series. Don't Go Near the Water! is the first in this series for beginning readers. Other titles include Don't Walk Alone at Night!, and Don't Go Into the Forest! The books star the same three young storytelling boys. When together, they like to tell one another stories they know from different corners of the world. They try to outdo each other with these legends as they retell about what can go wrong when you don't abide by your parents' warnings.
Before the three boys go to the neighborhood creek, Leon's mom warns, "Don't go near the water!" But after two full days of rain, they cannot resist getting close enough to have a peek. The foam they see on the water triggers a trio of fearful stories.
The children in these retold stories initially don't see what could be wrong with going near the water. They quickly learn their lessons though when they get too close and something unexpected happens to them. One boy sticks his hand into some quarry water, and he finds himself having to escape some green children with green teeth who like to play catch with a skull. Actually, they demand he play with them too! In another story, Kai and Lana come to completely understand why their dad warns them "Don't go near the water!" Their spy mission on creepy caped man through a lava tube jolts them away into a speedy run home as soon as they glimpse him cape-less. You would not want to see him coming towards you in the water! The last story takes place on a river. Despite her mom's water warning, Marie doesn't see the harm in washing the clothes in the river as she's always done. Unbeknownst to her, a Waterman has been admiring Marie because of her cleaning skills. He captures her while she's at the river's edge because he wants her to clean the puddles off his floor and the green slime off his walls. After being entrapped for awhile, she thinks she's tricked him into letting her go home, but the Waterman ultimately gets his revenge.
After the three boys tell their stories to one another, Leon wants to investigate a fish he sees in the creek they are near. Leon lives through something that happens as he's scrutinizing the fish that makes him never want to go near the water again- not even bathwater!
On almost every page is a drawing that makes clear what's happening in the story. And a little bit of spookiness is manifested in the illustrations. Because the text is short and easy to read, there are not any fully descriptive sections. To get the full effect of these villains, you need to see them. The illustrator exposes the pointy ears and teeth of the green children, not to mention their long straggly limbs and hair. And you definitely need to see what's under the creepy caped man's cape to get the full effect of that story! The black and white drawings will certainly add a little extra eeriness to these stories!
Veronika Martenova Charles, who lives in Toronto, is an award-winning author and illustrator who just completed her studies in Folklore. David Parkins is also an award-winning illustrator. He's written over 50 books for children and resides in England. These two artists have collaborated on all five titles in this series.
These are noteworthy books because sometimes life doesn't guarantee the second chance that some of these characters in this book are lucky enough to experience. The author used legends from Britain, Hawaii, and Central Europe to teach children that, yes, sometimes it's best not to go near the water.
Tanya Boudreau is a Youth Services Librarian and Resource Librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.
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