Water Runs Through This Book

Water Runs Through This Book


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Winner of:
2015 Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award (SONWA)

Through photographs, verse and narration, this book celebrates the most essential ingredient to life: water. Author and educator, Nancy Bo Flood and award-winning photographer, Jan Sonnenmair, combine imagination and information to explore this ever-changing and mysterious element. Water Runs Through This Book teaches how water runs through all aspects of our lives. Including everyday tips to help conserve, it will inspire children and adults to value water resources and to become better global citizens.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781936218134
Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing
Publication date: 08/25/2015
Pages: 64
Product dimensions: 6.80(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Nancy Bo Flood is an author, psychologist, teacher, and mother who writes about what she enjoys—children and foreign cultures. She has taught around the world, including Japan, Saipan of Micronesia, Hawaii and Samoa. She currently lives on the Navajo Reservation in northern Arizona. Jan Sonnenmair is an award-winning Portland, Oregon based commercial and documentary photographer who focuses her work on women, children and social issues around the world. Sonnenmair helps NGOs, corporations, universities and publications tell stories with imagery

Read an Excerpt


You Are Water

Water was part of the first "breath" you took, inside your mother, long before you were born. While there, your lungs were actually filled with watery fluid, and blood full of oxygen and nutrients passed from your mother to you through your umbilical cord.

We begin in water, floating in an amniotic sea. We swallow before we learn to breathe — our first breath doesn't happen until the moment we are born. Our cells are bathed in water. As an embryo grows, blood vessels stretch out to form arteries, veins, and capillaries that carry watery-rich blood.

You are water — at least two-thirds of you. Even your bones! Water in the discs in your spine give support so you can stand, walk, and run.

Our body is a water machine. Only oxygen is as essential for life. Water keeps our bodies alive, fueled, and healthy. Feeling tired? Drink water. Lots of it. Every day we lose nearly twelve cups of water as we sweat, urinate, and breathe. Our lungs need to be moistened with water. Each day we exhale several cups of water. With water we grow new cells. Drink water — lots of it.

The water inside you is salty, like ocean water. And if this water dries up, what a lifeless raisin-kid, prune, mummy you would become!

The Pueblo people of the desert say, "Water speaks to water." We are water.

In this book we speak to water, and water speaks to us.

Water is the liquid medium necessary for many of the chemical reactions inside you. Such a simple molecule, two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen, but without it, we could not survive.


In Weeping and Healing

"Tears are the medium of our most primal language in moments as unrelenting as death, as basic as hunger and as complex as a rite of passage."

Rose-Lynn Fisher,

Smithsonian Magazine

We cry several types of tears. Emotional tears remove chemicals that build up inside us when we are upset, sad, scared, or stressed.

Tears are not just water, they contain hormones and minerals that may be part of healing. One of those minerals is manganese. There is a theory that says too much manganese in our bodies affects our moods. While we always have manganese in our blood, when we are stressed, the amount of manganese increases. So, when we cry, our tears might have thirty times more manganese than normal. Perhaps crying helps take away the chemicals of sadness. Tears help heal the heart.

"It's as though each one of our tears carries a microcosm of the collective human experience, like one drop of an ocean."

Rose-Lynn Fisher, Smithsonian Magazine

Tears have many functions. Tears also moisten our eyes. Lacrimal glands, little glands in the corners of our eyes, produce two types of tears: basal tears that lubricate our eyes and help prevent eye infections, and reflex tears that wash away irritants and dust. If our eyes are not kept clean, they won't work!

Flamingos have very special tears — they are brimming with salt. These tall pink birds wade all day slurping up salty water to find their breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They filter-feed on algae and lots of tiny brine shrimp. Brine = salty water. Flamingos are one of the few land creatures that can drink salt water and live. That is because they excrete — get rid of — the deadly salt by "crying." As soon as salt levels get high enough in their bodies, flamingos expel it through salt glands above their eyes. Water and salty tears keep them alive and healthy.

When Water Weeps

Drops Falling From my eyes Flow down my face This is how I say I care

Water helps us cool down when we get too hot. Drinking a warm glass of water can energize, soothe a headache, and can relieve asthma. When you jump on a trampoline, do a cartwheel, or fidget at your desk, water is lubricating your joints. Water makes you flexible and full of energy.

If you don't drink enough water to replenish what you use, your body tries to hold on to, or retain water. Your hands and feet might swell. Your kidneys excrete less water so your urine becomes dark yellow. Dehydration — not enough water — makes you feel tired, achy, crabby, and even confused. You might not "know" you are thirsty. In a hot dry desert, even a few hours of hard hiking without water can be fatal. Someone needs to tell you: "Stop. Drink, now!"

Water also helps heal mind and soul. New studies show that our brain neurons are "hardwired" to respond to the sounds, smells, and feel of water. Relax in a hot bath, splash through a puddle, sit by a bubbling stream — your brain waves will show the calming effect of being near water.


When you hear the splash Of water drops Fall into the stone bowl You will see All the dust Of your mind is Washed away.

Water helps in other ways to heal us. Scrapes and cuts must be washed. Wounds must be cleansed. Water moves antibodies, nutrients, and hormones through the circulatory and lymphatic systems. As part of the immune system, water transports white cells to do battle at the site of an infection. Water is a unique liquid, a universal solvent or "mixer" that allows molecules to move, mingle, disconnect, reconnect, and reorganize. Water enables every part of your body to function efficiently.

Washing your hands with soap and water is the most effective way to limit the spread of disease. Don't want to get sick? Wash your hands!


Find Water, Find Life

Imagine you are standing outside. It is night. Look up. Search for an especially bright planet — perhaps Jupiter.

Can you see fish jumping on Europa, one of Jupiter's largest moons? Probably not, but the possibility that fish — or life — exists is not zero.

Despite what books and movies might have told us, our solar system is definitely not arid and empty. Our solar system is a watery place. In fact, astronomers are discovering that a "global ocean," perhaps one hundred miles deep, covers Europa. Is there life in that sea? Many comets have smashed into Europa, and comets carry organic, carbon-containing compounds.

Maybe there is life even farther away than our solar system. Look at those stars in the night sky. Each one is a sun. Some are like our own sun. Imagine planets circling those suns in distant galaxies. Astronomers are on the hunt to find evidence of water on those distant planets. Water might be found locked under a planet's surface like the water on Mars. If there is water, life as we know it is possible.

In the year 2000, the first conference on astrobiology — life on planets and stars — was held at NASA's research center. The first topic on the agenda? Water.

Now imagine you are looking down, deep in the Earth — at least several hundred feet. Beneath the surface of our western deserts, hydrologists have found pockets of ancient water — water trapped during the last ice age. What's in it? No gum wrappers, no plastic water bottles, but instead particles that tell us what was happening on Earth more than ten thousand years ago! Who was drinking that water, swimming in it, pooping in it? Who knows, hydrologists might find a few front teeth from a saber-toothed cat or the fur from a woolly mammoth! Trapped ice-age water ... a trip back in time.

Now look far north to the North Pole or far south to Antarctica. Glaciers and ice caps! Frozen water, frozen time. Looking at a glacier is being face-to-face with a piece of the earth's frozen history. Drill a core sample of this ice and discover clues about past ices ages, climate changes, or unknown aspects of our planet's history.

And as the glaciers — Antarctica's ice sheets — and polar ice caps melt, scientists are looking. Whose mitten will they find?

Ice Skin, Winter Memory

Crackle of ice skin as I step, step, step Snow melts, freezes, melts,
While groundwater can be replenished by waters trickling down from the surface, this happens very slowly. Many scientists believe that the water in large underground pools of water, or aquifers, dates back to the most recent ice age and probably earlier.

The Arch Iceberg, Greenland

Glaciers cover about 10 percent of the Earth's surface. During the last ice age, they covered more than a third of the planet.


Water Powers Life

When water dries up and disappears, animals leave. People abandon their homes to thirsty ghosts. Deserts grow larger.

The definition of a desert is land that receives fewer than ten inches (25.4 centimeters) of rain over an entire year. Hold up a ruler. Now note the ten-inch mark — this would equal a desert's annual rainfall. During severe drought, rain might not fall for ten, fifty, or even five hundred years!

About one-third of our Earth is desert. But why am I talking about deserts in a book about water? In a desert the importance of water is crystal clear. A few inches of rain swiftly changes a desert's entire environment. Enough rain at the right time means healthy growth and enough food. Animals — domestic and wild — and people can survive.

But rain must come at the right time, in the right place, and in the right amount. If rainfall is too late or too little, then plants wither and die. Too much rain can destroy roads, homes, and entire communities. Floods can wash away or drown the very life that needs water. In a desert we see clearly that water powers a cycle of plant growth that supports a healthy environment.

Let's look at the high desert of the Colorado Plateau. You are hiking down into the Grand Canyon, one of the largest canyons in the world. You have walked halfway down. You are thirsty. Your legs hurt. Your feet burn. Your water bottle is empty. You are so thirsty you can't even swallow. Your throat feels stuck shut.

Meanwhile, only a few miles away thousands of gallons of water rush down the Colorado River. You can almost smell it, even hear it — cold, wet, thirst-quenching water.

In the high desert surrounding the Grand Canyon, there are different types of rain. The Navajo describe two kinds: male rain and female rain. Each has its own effect, sometimes supporting life, sometimes taking life.

Female rains produce gently falling showers. Moisture is slowly absorbed by thirsty sandstone or trickles into cracks, where it is "sipped" by the thirsty roots of pine, sage, and juniper.

Male rains fall during summer's monsoon season, harsh and furious. During the hot days of July and August, dark clouds pile high along the horizon. The air is still and feels ominous. Thunder booms, echoes, and rumbles. Then the rains come. Sheets of water pour and pound. Roads turn into rivers. Red mud courses over boulders, slices paths between gulches, and then plunges like waterfalls over sandstone cliffs. Flash floods sweep away whatever is in their paths — boulders, trees, homes, and people. Male rain pours and rushes. Then stops.

Then, once again, streams disappear, waterfalls shrink to a thin trickle, and then ... silence.

The desert waits for rain.

The same rain also brings life. At sunset, after the deluge of a summer storm, canyon walls echo with a new song — toad song. Wherever puddles have appeared, spadefoot toads dig up through the mud where they have waited — maybe for months or even years — for rain.

Every male toad is calling, a seesaw baritone refrain, a symphony of rain song, of life song. Find a mate; lay eggs. Within a few weeks tiny tadpoles wiggle out and transform quickly into toads. Tails become legs with webbed feet that dig back down into the mud before the ground dries into hard earth.


Water Is Not Always Wet

Water is an ever-changing, magical chameleon. Water can take many forms — as a solid, liquid, or gas (vapor). Whatever the form, water is still water: H2O.

What is the color of water? Perhaps it's an intense liquid blue glowing with light. Blue like a bit of cold sky. Blue like turquoise. Scoop up a handful of clear blue water. Hold it and the blue is gone. It looks clear. Now imagine you are standing on a beach. Droplets of water in a stormy sky can paint a rainbow of colors. What is the color of water? The color of change.

What is the shape of water? The shape of a raindrop? A cloud? The shape of a puddle or an ice cube?

What is the size of water? As tiny as a dewdrop, a bubble on a gecko's chin, or as huge as an ocean? The Pacific Ocean is the biggest single "thing" on Earth. More than 2/3 of the planet's surface is covered by water!

What words describe the smell of water? Putrid, stinking, polluted water? Or clean, clear, thirst-quenching water?

Listen to the sounds of water ... rain coming, closer, faster, BAM! Rain pouring, drumming, gushing, rushing, and then the quiet drip and trickle as clouds move past, thin, disappear. Silence.

Water is not always wet. It rises invisibly as water vapor, a colorless gas. When water freezes, it has a very specific way of changing into a solid: it freezes first on the surface, allowing life "below" in rivers, lakes, and ponds to continue. As water changes into a solid, it also expands into a variety of shapes, forming everything from snowflakes to ice cubes to icicles, or even immense ice caps. Ice sheets are frozen rivers of water. Glaciers are creeping mountains of water.

What a shape-shifting, amazing chameleon — water!

Look up. Feel the magic of a snowflake caught on the tip of your tongue. Listen to the thundering vibrations of water plunging down a waterfall. Imagine standing next to a glacier, a mountain of water. Maybe you will first need to make one ...

How to Make a Glacier

Capture one Snowflake.
All the water that was on the Earth back in the age of dinosaurs is still here for us.

It's the same water. Recycled.

We need to conserve this water and keep it clean. It's all we have.

The water cycle, perhaps the oldest form of recycling, involves both change and movement. Water recycling might begin with surface water — a puddle, pond, stream, or lake. The sun warms molecules on the surface of water. These molecules evaporate and become a gas — water vapor — and rise. Up high, the air is cooler, causing the vapor to condense into clouds. Air currents move the clouds, and when the water droplets in clouds become large enough, they fall as liquid rain, or as solid ice or snow.

After rain pours — or even mists or drizzles down — some rainwater is quickly recycled. However, fast recycling doesn't allow water to get clean. When rain pours over hard or impenetrable surfaces, such as plowed fields, paved streets, and sidewalks, the water cannot be absorbed and instead gushes into storm sewers. This runoff water carries with it pollutants, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and general grime from human use.

But water that falls on more porous, uncontaminated surfaces, such as forests, parks, or natural vegetated areas, soaks slowly into the earth. It often takes years before this water becomes part of surface water again. During the years it trickles down through layers of vegetation and earth, water is being "scrubbed clean."

This "biological Ferris wheel" of change, movement, and repeated interaction with an ecosystem is a natural cleansing process as well as a recycling system. How different rushing, uncleansed runoff water is from water that instead percolates. "Slow" water does not erode, gorge, or create gullies. The slow, natural cycling of water restores it to how we like it: water that is clean and clear.


Excerpted from "Water Runs Through This Book"
by .
Copyright © 2015 Nancy Bo Flood.
Excerpted by permission of Fulcrum Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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