The Water Lady: How Darlene Arviso Helps a Thirsty Navajo Nation

by Alice B McGinty (Author) Shonto Begay (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

This inspiring picture book tells the true story of a woman who brings desperately needed water to families on the Navajo reservation every day.

Underneath the New Mexico sky, a Navajo boy named Cody finds that his family's barrels of water are empty. He checks the chicken coop-- nothing. He walks down the road to the horses' watering hole. Dry.

Meanwhile, a few miles away, Darlene Arviso drives a school bus and picks up students for school. After dropping them off, she heads to another job: she drives her big yellow tanker truck to the water tower, fills it with three thousand gallons of water, and returns to the reservation, bringing water to Cody's family, and many, many others.

Here is the incredible and inspiring true story of a Native American woman who continuously gives back to her community and celebrates her people.

Publishers Weekly

Through the story of a fictional Diné boy named Cody, McGinty introduces Darlene Arviso, known as the Water Lady, who delivers water to Navajo Nation families that do not have running water (40%, per an author's note). Waking to discover that his mother has used the last of the family's water supply, Cody worries about their farm animals and himself: "the sun will blaze from the sky, another scorching day in the high desert. And he is thirsty." As Cody's grandmother relays to him the story of the Water Sprinkler, "the Navajo God of Water who collects water in a jar and sprinkles it" in all directions, Arviso finishes her job driving a school bus, then visits a water tower to fill a tanker truck with 3,000 gallons before steering to Cody's home, and to others'. Navajo artist Begay's vibrant ink and watercolor art brings a stirring emotional undercurrent to this community-oriented narrative. An author's note discusses the story's origins in a ride McGinty took with Arviso, who contributes a note of her own. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Alice B McGinty
Alice B. McGinty is the award-winning author of more than 40 books for children. Her picture book biography Darwin was named a NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor book and was a 2009 Booklist Top Ten Biographies for Youth. Alice was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and has lived in New York, New Jersey, Kentucky, Maryland, Georgia, and Indiana. She currently resides in Urbana, Illinois.

David Roberts is an award-winning illustrator of children's books, including Iggy Peck, Architect; Rosie Revere, Engineer; and Ada Twist, Scientist. He is currently based in London.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
March 20, 2021
Age Range
4 - 9 years

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