Book Review: We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

Review by: Taylor Lohman

Keywords: Picturebook, Early Reader 

A beautifully illustrated children’s book portraying the indigenous-led fight against a monstrous, miles-long black snake, this true-story of the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline is both fantasy and reality, told through a lens both indigenous and feminist.

This 2020 picturebook is narrated by a young girl whose name is never explicitly stated. She is in many ways an embodiment of “Anishinaabe,” a word which refers collectively to the Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Odawa tribes. Specifically, the narrator embodies the women of these tribes, the women who have historically been given the monicer of “Water Protector.” The beautiful watercolor style of Goade’s illustrations is especially prominent in its portrayal of water, whose appearance mimics a celestial sky and connects feminine energy across time and space. 

The fairy tale-esque landscape of the book will feel familiar to those children who enjoy the fantasy genre, but the lens through which the story is told subverts the dominant Christian, patriarchal, eurocentric narrative of most children’s fantasy literature. Through femine deities, a reverence of ancestors, and an oil pipeline represented by a huge destructive serpent, Lindstrom seamlessly melds the archetypes of mainstream children’s literature and the fables of Native oral tradition. This children’s book stands alone as a captivating and eye-catching tale of a young girl’s crusade against unspeakable evil, while simultaneously serving as a crucial entry point for early conversations about the theft and exploitation of indigenous land

Taylor Lohman is in the Additional Communication Arts Licensure Program at the University of Minnesoa and an Avid rock-collector.

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