Anna Carries Water, by Olive Senior, with illustrations by Laura James
It is unclear exactly what nation inspired this particular book but since the author is of Jamaican heritage and the illustrator is an Antiguan (both of which are lovely countries), it is clear that this is a Caribbean tale and it is a very enjoyable and pleasant one. There is something heart-warming about the desire of the titular character Anna, the youngest of a large group of children in a family, to share in the big person activities of her older siblings, which involves carrying water from a nearby spring. There are some genuinely touching and funny moments as Anna is shown to be afraid of the cows of a neighbor which everyone else knows to be lazy and placid as most cows tend to be, although it is the cows who (spoiler alert) help Anna out with her problem of not feeling as if she is able to fit in with her siblings as a full water carrier. The end result of the story is, as one would expect, a heartwarming family togetherness that involves acceptance and understanding and maybe a bit of growing up and facing one’s fears and becoming a braver person, all of which is something that is enjoyable to read for any age and certainly an obvious sort of point for a book about children.
This particular book not only has a very easy to support text about the desire of children to do tasks that make them feel as if they are big and grown up a bit, and to not be looked down or patronized by older people, but it also has some very beautiful artwork. The illustrations here are vivid, full of bright colors for the clothing of the children, expresses faces, and nicely drawn details for the lazy cows munching grass or the friendly animals and the birds and butterflies and trees of the nameless island where this story occurs. The presentation of the importance of bringing water from the spring points out the poverty of the region because it has no running water as well as the importance of such labor as bringing water to the well-being of families in remote areas without running water, something that may appear to be a remote concern for American readers but will certainly resonate with those who have lived in more austere and primitive conditions at some point in their lives.