By Susan Verde and Georgie Badiel, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. G.P. Putnam’s Sons’ Books for Young Readers, 2016. 40 pages. $17.99/hardcover; $10.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 5–8.
Gie Gie is a girl whose parents call her Princess. She has a great imagination and sense of power in her world. She says, “I can tame the wild dogs with my song. I can make the tall grass sway when I dance. I can make the wind play hide-and-seek.” She has to admit that she cannot bring the water closer. The illustrations place us beautifully in an arid African environment.
The story follows Gie Gie one warm, dry day when she is awakened before daylight to walk with her mother and the other women and girls from her village to fetch water. She dances, light of foot as they go, but carrying the muddy water home, the dance slows to careful steps, shoulders ache, and feet cramp. Still she has not quenched her thirst, for the water must be boiled and filtered before they can drink. Her indomitable spirit persists and her princess dreams remain, including the dream of bringing the water closer.
The book is based on the childhood experience of high fashion model Georgie Badiel, who grew up in Burkina Faso, a country in the interior of West Africa. She has started a foundation (georgiebadielfoundation.org) that works with Ryan’s Well, a Canada-based nonprofit, to bring potable water to families in her homeland and places like it.
The story does not preach nor fix the problem, yet reveals a distressing situation common to many people while showing respect rather than pity for them. The notes and photos at the end of the book invite both children and adults to take action to bring water closer to where people live. We recommend this book to religious education classes and to families with children ages five to nine.