A mix of titles currently on my shelves.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Hello, Water!

Congratulations to my friends and colleagues at Ember Press! Their 2019 picture book, Hello, Water! Snowflakes to Glaciers, a Wild Alaska Story, recently won three awards from the National Federation of Press Women.

Taylor Hoku Hayden, the author, received First Place honors in the category for Writing, Children’s Books — Nonfiction.

Iñupiaq artist Molly Trainor took Second Place for Graphics and Design — Graphics.

Art director Nanette Stevenson was honored with Third Place for Graphics and Design — Book designed by entrant.

Ember Press is a small and very independent Alaska publisher led by writer Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan. They specialize in nonfiction, adventure, conservation, and history related to Alaska and also serve as the publisher for books about the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area. Hello, Water! is their first foray into picture books. Everyone involved in the production of the book is Alaskan and it shows — in a good way!

Hello, Water! tells the story of the water cycle through the transformations experienced by Water, beginning as a chunk of calving glacier. Animals and other elements of nature — wildfire, wind, clouds and water in all its forms — tell the tale in brief, poetic bursts that bring the natural world alive. Information is also presented more formally in a map of the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain area, a page of background facts about how water has shaped the land and its history, and a closing illustration of the water cycle with more “water facts” related to Alaska.

"Hello, Water," says Raven.
Frozen in ages of ice, Water makes no reply.

The art and book design create a feeling of movement evocative of water. Double-page spreads allow plenty of space to hold both this energy and more contemplative elements, such as a resting moose and the anthropomorphized face of Water. The spreads also convey the spaciousness of the Alaskan landscape.

One thing I love about this book is that it integrates scientific information with a view of nature that is not mechanistic, but imaginative and dynamic. Components of the natural world are connected and relational. Hayden and Trainor portray nature with a spirit of creation and transformation that (I believe) is a big part of what Alaskans love about being outdoors. When we immerse ourselves in nature, we, too, are renewed and transformed.

As I enjoy the glory of another Alaskan summer -- counting my blessings to have the freedom of so much space during this peculiar time of social distancing -- I appreciate Water in all its forms. When I observe familiar glaciers, now melting faster than they are reforming, I can't help thinking about how out-of-whack the cycle of water described in Hello, Water! has become. A first step in explaining the problem is understanding how the water cycle works. Hello, Water! does that on both literal and imaginative levels.