cover image Waterman's Child

Waterman's Child

Barbara Mitchell. HarperCollins, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-688-10861-8

San Souci's limpid, full-spread watercolor paintings nimbly steer readers through this anecdotal chronicle of four generations of a close-knit family on Maryland's Tilghman Island. Setting lifelike renderings of hardy ""watermen,"" their wives and offspring against the backdrop of the imposing Chesapeake Bay, the artist reinforces the reassuring continuity underlying Mitchell's (Red Bird) smoothly recounted story. From its start, the young narrator links her family's history to the bountiful Bay, noting that her great-grandma married a waterman at a bayside church ""when the Bay was brimming with oyster boats and wind-filled sails reached for the sky like flocks of snowy gulls."" By tale's end, the waterway is polluted and Great-grandpa worries about the island's diminishing oyster catch, yet the narrator's vow to save the Bay (and to marry a waterman, like the womenfolk before her) suggests that both the Bay and the family tradition will be preserved. This portrait of a place and its people is sufficiently engaging that readers should excuse Mitchell's overly tidy closing, as well as some unlikely particulars: each generation gives birth to exactly one boy and one girl and not a single death occurs in the clan over some 50 years. The book's subject and San Souci's polished, realistic art should make this a strong seller in the Chesapeake area. Ages 5-up. (Apr.)