L’amour de l’eau

(3 customer reviews)

Written by Natalie Hodgson and Rajean Willis
Illustrated by Sahle Robinson

A young Black girl with a love of water is told that swimming is not a “Black sport.” She has to overcome discrimination, stereotyping, and peer pressure to finally catch a wave. Told in spoken word, Water Love is a story that will inspire children to follow their passion and make their dreams come true.

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Water Love, a beautifully illustrated spoken word picture book, tells the story of Kaya, a young Black girl as she navigates her lifelong love of water amid the disapproval of her friends and despite her mother’s deep-seated fear of the water. Combatting stereotypes, Kaya joins an all-Black surfing program; in this program, as she begins to understand the larger struggles of the Black experience, she learns to love her “real” self and finds joy in expressing herself through her passion for surfing. Water Love  was inspired by the North Preston Surf Program in Nova Scotia, an organization that works to encourage a stronger representation of Black people in water sports.

Additional information

Weight .36 kg
Dimensions 24.1 × 34.3 × 1.3 cm

Natalie Hodgson and Rajean Willis


Sahle Robinson


Trade, Casebound, 8.75" X 9.25", 36 pages

3 reviews for L’amour de l’eau

  1. Simone Dalton

    The “giver of life” characteristic of water is proverbial. Yet for many people of African descent, particularly those in the diaspora, the water we swim in carries a darker history of enslavement and death. It is in the wake of this generational trauma that we meet Kaya, a 10-year-old girl for whom water simply means love.

    In Water Love, a picture book written by Natalie Hodgson and Rajean Willis, Kaya’s origin story arrives with the waves. This is a memory of a simpler time when sticky summer days were spent barefoot, drinking in the wonder of the lake at the back of her grandmother’s house. With the cadence and style of a dub poet, she begins her tale with a declaration: “This is when I fell in love with water …”

    Her aunt attempts to restrain the younger Kaya’s curiosity. “Don’t get too close,” she says. All Kaya sees is possibility. When she decides to ask her parents if she can learn to swim — “Dad got no fear of water” — readers realize that convincing her mother is the true test. Despite her mother’s memories of her own near drowning and those aforementioned whispers about what lurks in the deep, Kaya’s unbridled joy melts her fear.

    Sahle Robinson’s illustrations that show Kaya suited up for the pool and wearing a brave face while her crown of kinky curls is combed will be endearing to Black girls and women everywhere. In fact, Robinson is masterful at complementing the verse that flows from spread to spread. The story artist and character concept designer, whose film and television credits include How to Train Your Dragon, demonstrates the power of a creator who knows who he is drawing.

    Hodgson and Willis, who are Indigenous Black Nova Scotians and mothers, create a sense of empathy for Kaya. Hodgson is a counsellor and impact of race and culture assessor in the justice system, while Willis is a social work clinician and scholar. They succeed at developing a character that is as conflicted as the times she is born into. Kaya is caught in a prepubescent maelstrom of “fittin’ in,” which includes leaving swimming — “No one else looks like me at the pool …” — and for a time “playing the Black sport.

    In the end, young Kaya changes the narrative thanks to a local youth program where she learns how to surf. Readers cannot help but root for her, reminded that the only way out is through.

    — Simone Dalton, Quill & Quire

  2. Rabia Khokhar

    A captivating story that celebrates and honours water. This book follows the journey of Kaya and her developing love for water and water-related sports like swimming and surfboarding. The illustrations are breathtaking and submerge us into the story. Through Kaya’s experiences, we learn the many stories that are associated with water. Water can be fun and healing, but it also carries stories that haunt people and communities, such as stories of enslavement. The stories and experiences build Kaya’s interest, and she expands her dreams and hopes. But she is constantly told that water-related sports are not “Black sports” and that she should stick to basketball. However, she continues to embrace her identity and passion. In doing so, she disrupts stereotypes around who can take part in which sport.

    Through the support and inspiration of a community teacher and mentor, Kaya participates in a new program in her community called the North Preston Surf Program. This important program addresses the gap in Black people’s representation in water sports. The book leaves readers with powerful messages about the importance of exposure, accessibility, culturally specific opportunities and their impact on bringing communities together. Also, the intentional representation in the book models that people of all identities belong and have a place in all sports and spaces.

    – Rabia Khokhar, Canadian Children’s Book News, Winter 2022/23

  3. Larry Swartz

    Imagine that a young Black girl who loves water is told that swimming is not a Black Sport. This book is told in spoken word helping readers to consider ways to overcome discrimination, stereotyping and peer pressure. “Black fear of water our ancestors on slave ships chained, suffered, thrown off legacy of generational injury”

    — Larry Swartz, Educational Consultant

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