We Are Water Protectors

by Carole Lindstrom

Hardcover, 2020



Local notes

970.3 Lin




Roaring Brook Press (2020), Edition: Illustrated, 40 pages


Water is the first medicine. It affects and connects us all... When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth and poison her people's water, one young water protector takes a stand to defend Earth's most sacred resource. Inspired by the many indigenous-led movements across North America, this bold and lyrical picture book issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth's water from harm and corruption.


Caldecott Medal (Medal Winner — 2021)
Kirkus Prize (Finalist — Young Readers' Literature — 2020)
Nutmeg Book Award (Nominee — Elementary — 2022)
Mitten Award (Top Ten — 2021)
Kids' Book Choice Awards (Finalist — 2021)
Azia Books Diversity Award (Listed — 2022)
Three Stars Book Award (Nominee — Young Readers — 2021)
Ladybug Picture Book Award (Nominee — 2021)
Charlotte Huck Award (Honor — 2021)
Friends of American Writers Award (Juvenile Book — 2021)
Green Earth Book Award (Recommended Reading — Picture Book — 2021)
Penn GSE's Best Books for Young Readers (Selection — Picture Books — 2020)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

40 p.; 10.4 x 10.3 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member varwenea
In this story, the narrator, an Ojibwe girl, recalls her grandmother, Nokomis, teaching her about the importance and sacredness of water. “Water is the first medicine. We come from water.” Their people foretell a black snake that will one day destroy their land and poison their water. This
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black snake has arrived in the form of an oil pipeline. She rallies her people against the black snake and to protect their water supply. “We fight for those Who cannot fight for themselves: The winged ones, The crawling ones, The four-legged, The two-legged, The plants, trees, rivers, lakes, The Earth.” The girl encourages her people by declaring "We are water protectors. We Stand! The black snake is in the fight of its life.”

This story is inspired by the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at the Standing Rock Reservation in 2016. Linstrom was so taken by it, that she wanted to do something about it. This book, with its beautiful illustrations by Michaela Goade, is the result of their efforts. The story is short and meaningful. It is easily approachable for the young audience. For reference, Carole Lindstrom, the author, is Ojibwe. Michaela Goade, is a member of the Tlingit and Haida tribes.

I encountered this book via a “StoryWalk” along a trail. The StoryWalk Project is nationwide initiative to entice kids (and grownups) moving/exercising by placing all pages of a book along a neighborhood trail, which incidentally is at a water treatment plant.
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LibraryThing member eo206
This is a lovely book to share with children to introduce the importance of land, water, advocacy, and Native American sovereignty and environmentalism. The story has a link to the Dakota Acess Pipeline (DAPL) that was in the news several years ago. The illustrations are vibrant and convey the
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sense of urgency around water sovereignty. I hope this book is widely used in water-week conversations in schools and shared with children to talk about environmental activism.
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LibraryThing member villemezbrown
A call to activism in support of a good cause is beautifully illustrated in this book exploring the environmental and spiritual reasons behind the Dakota Access Pipeline protests by the Standing Rock Sioux and their supporters.
LibraryThing member cay250
great illustration, I wanted it to provide ways in which people/kids can help support preserve the water
LibraryThing member sdbookhound
The illustrations in this are gorgeous. It is not a wonder why it was chosen for the Caldecott award.
LibraryThing member LibrarianRyan
Wow what a story. It tells both the modern story of US indigenous people trying to stop oil pipelines from running across their tribal lands, but also of tribal tales passed down through the ages. It is completely wonderful.
LibraryThing member J_Odiorne
We Are Water Protectors, written by Carole Lindstrom, is a magnificently illustrated story told from the point of view of a contemporary indigenous girl who reveals what she has learned from her grandmother about what (and who) water is. “Water is life, “sacred”, and the “first medicine.”
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It is “Spirit” and nourishes us. Water is alive and it remembers. Her ancestors have taught her to be a steward of the Earth. When the black snake arrives and threatens to destroy the land and poison the water, our young protagonist, a water protector, is compelled to rally her people and fight against it. She leads with a pro-Earth charge to “Stand with and for the water”, and “for the land.” To stand as one and courageously fight against the black snake that endangers her people. This story is a call for awareness, indigenous rights, social justice, and a call to action to the reader.

Critical Analysis:It is easy to see how this creatively presented picture book was awarded the Caldecott Medal identifying it as a “distinguished American picture book for children”. Illustrator, Michaela Goade, Sitka, of Tlingit descent, tribally enrolled with the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska was a perfect choice for this work. She made history as the first nonwhite woman, first indigenous woman, and the first BIPOC woman to win the Caldecott Medal (2021) ever in 83 years.The artistic technique utilized, and cultural pictorial interpretation of the story, theme, and concept is excellent. The illustrator fittingly uses watercolor as a medium to depict a wonder-filled variety of beautifully detailed images that are intriguing to both young and older readers. The method by which Goade utilized her artistic craft to reveal the culture, setting, plot, the power and strength of our young protagonist, and the interrelatedness of the creatures of the Earth is amazing.
Additionally, there are a variety of literary elements in this appealing book perfect for teaching. It will help children understand important environmental concerns, the connectedness of nature, and the story of Standing Rock. A mirror book for indigenous peoples and a sliding door for others, it is a perfect mentor text for Earth Day, Indigenous Peoples month, or to explore topics of indigenous cultures and rights, stewardship, activism, environmentalism, social justice, and children using their voice to create changes.

Favorite Quote: “The river runs through our veins. Through my peoples’ veins.”
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LibraryThing member Whisper1
This is one of the most beautifully illustrated books I've read. One reading wasn't enough. The story of the importance of water, and as the cover jacket notes "Inspired by the many Indigenous led movements across North American, this bold and lyrical picture book issues an urgent rallying cry to
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safeguard Earth's water from harm and corruption."

Words cannot describe the beauty of the illustrations and the imperative message to save and care for water, our most precious element in the world.

A black snake, illustrated in a monster-like fashion, has a mission to destroy and poison the water, a young girl is on a mission to fight to protect and defend water, our most precious resource.
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(153 ratings; 4.5)
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