Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Recommended! nibi is water; nibi aawon nbiish, by Joanne Robertson; translated by Shirley Williams and Isadore Toulouse

nibi is water, nibi aawon nbiish
Written and illustrated by Joanne Robertson (
Translated by Shirley Williams and Isadore Toulouse
Published in 2020
Publisher: Second Story Press
Reviewed by Debbie Reese
Status: Highly Recommended

Last month I (Debbie) was in Toronto at the 2020 Ontario Library Association's Super Conference. There, I spoke (and ate, and laughed--a lot!) with Native women. At one of these moments, they were asking me if I'd seen Joanne Robertson's new board book yet. I had not, but as I listened to them talk about it... to the delight in their voices, I suspected it would be something I'd like, too. 

nibi is water, nibi aawan nbiish arrived at my house and sure enough, it lifted my day! The nuts and bolts, so to speak, are this: it is what some call a "concept" book. It tells us several characteristics of some thing... like an information book, but for very young readers. 

Robertson's book is about water and the many ways that a child experiences it. You can swim or bathe in it, you can drink it, you can use it to wash your clothes... But Robertson reminds us that we need to care for it, that we have to respect, love, and protect it because, as the final page tells us, water is life. 

If you got Robertson's The Water Walker you'll recognize the walkers from that book, in nibi is water, nibi aawan nbiish (note: keep your eyes open... they're in the book, more than once--this is the sort of detail that kids adore!).

I'll state the obvious: this is a bilingual book. On every page, you'll find Ojibwe words and at the end of the book, a pronunciation guide. Get a copy and come back here. Submit a comment! What do you see? What speaks to you?