Written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Illustrated by Linda S. Wingerter
Houghton Mifflin, 2003
My grandfather is a water man. He went to sea on a sailing ship when he was ten years old.
The plot in a nutshell: A shy girl has faith in her grandfather
Isabel’s grandfather tells stories about his days on the sea. He tells her that he used to have a pig named the Pig That Went Around Cape Horn. Now he has a pig from her last litter, called the Pig of the Pig That Went Around Cape Horn. Pig of the Pig follows Isabel around and doesn’t care that she isn’t especially athletic or smart or outgoing. Isabel and Pig of the Pig play together, pretending to be out at sea. They also go with Grandfather when he takes his dowsing stick and goes in search of water. He doesn’t know how it works, but it always does. He helps a neighbor find water to save his apple trees and the neighbor calls him The Water King of Waldo County.
A run of bad luck hits the family, when Grandfather finds a well but the water tastes bad. Then he has trouble finding any water at all and worse, he falls and hurts himself. After a while, no one comes to him for the water gift anymore and he gets depressed, throwing his dowsing stick into the fire. One day, Pig of the Pig doesn’t come for her food and Isabel is worried. Their mean neighbor tells her that if the pig shows up in his woods, he’ll keep her. Isabel, tired of waiting, climbs the hundred year tree to get another dowsing stick for Grandfather and they go out looking for her. Together they use the stick and find Pig of the Pig in a hole, where she had fallen. A neighbor asks Grandfather and Isabel to find a well for her chicken farm and promises to pay in wood, which Grandfather says they will use to build a sailing ship.
Author Jacqueline Briggs Martin includes a helpful note at the beginning of the book that gives more detail about ‘the water gift’ and its history. The story is told from Isabel’s point of view and the book captures her personality and voice extremely well, letting us get to know her better just from seeing the story unfold through her eyes. Linda S. Wingerter’s acrylic illustrations have a paintbrush texture that makes them look as though you are looking at the original paintings. I love the colors in the outdoor scenes, which almost make you smell autumn in the air. I enjoyed this one more on my second read through, which I attribute to having the better understanding of the characters that comes from the first reading.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that sometimes it only takes one person believing in you to make you believe in yourself.