Monday, January 14, 2019

Review - I Came From the Water

I Came From the Water
by Vanita Oelschlager
illustrated by Mike Blanc
Date: 2012
Publisher: Vanita Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 24
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

The story is based on the actual experiences of Moses, an eight year-old boy and resident of St. Helene’s orphanage outside Port-au-Prince. As an infant, he was literally plucked from the waters of a nearby river, having been placed in a basket by whom we believe was his grandmother. The rest of his family perished in floods that wiped out their upland village in 2004. He was given his name by the nuns at St. Helene’s. The title is Moses’ reply to the author when she asked where he is from.

After the earthquake of 2010 destroyed Port-au-Prince and much of the surrounding area, the orphanage was flooded with a new wave of parentless boys and girls. Moses helped these children adapt to their new lives and in so doing displays a fearless hope and determination that may lead to Haiti’s renewal as a self-supporting nation.

St. Helene’s orphanage is run by Father Rick Frechette known globally for his dedication to improving the lives of poor children across Latin America.

Net profits from I Came From the Water will go to support St. Helene’s and Father Rick’s efforts to help rebuild Haiti by offering a safe place to live and a free education for children like Moses.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I don't like giving negative reviews to books that are based on the lives of real people, but I also can't justify giving positive ratings to books that I did not like.

I Came From the Water is filled with so much conjecture, which is understandable, given that Moses was found as a baby and couldn't tell his story to anyone. I probably could've overlooked that, if the text and pictures hadn't been so hair-raisingly creepy. Throughout, the priest, nuns, and other helpers are almost deified; the pictures of Father Rick are especially cringe-worthy (he often has his arms raised up like Jesus, with a beatific smile on his face). The adults are absolutely idolized, and there's one rather cringe-worthy bit where Moses refers to the author as a "nice lady". (How does she know that's what he thought of her? Maybe he thought this nosy foreigner was annoying.) Then there's the part of the book that talks about the cholera outbreak after the 2010 earthquake. This part of the book really should be updated, as it's now believed that UN peacekeepers from Nepal brought the disease to Haiti. (As it is, the information contained here could scare some kids half to death. The book states: "Cholera comes from drinking dirty water or not washing your hands before you eat." I think it needs to be clarified that you're probably not going to get cholera if you forget to wash your hands, especially if you're not living in a disaster zone!)

I think part of the problem here is that the book is written in a first-person perspective from Moses's point of view. But it's not well done. It seems like an adult trying to adopt the voice of a child and failing miserably. Moses comes across as extremely naive and way too juvenile. I think I would've rather seen this story told in the third person, with less projection on the part of the author and other adults. (The fact is, nobody knows Moses's background. They shouldn't be making one up for him; it's his life, not theirs.)

The pictures are a mixed bag. They're colourful and depict the story fairly well. On the other hand, there are a few weird pictures that look almost like religious iconography. Yes, running a hospital and orphanage is a noble cause. But it doesn't make one a god.

I thought I would like this one more than I did. And perhaps, if it had been told in a different way, I might have liked it. But it relied way too much on a badly done child's voice and too many adults patting themselves on the back. Unfortunately, I can't recommend this one, even though Moses's story is interesting.

Thank you to NetGalley and Vanita Books for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 2 out of 5

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