Calling the Water Drum
Redding tells the heartbreaking story of one Haitian boy’s survival and adaptation to life in the U.S. in this picture-book immigration tale. Henri arrives in New York City traumatized and unable to speak. He has only a plastic bucket to call his own. His friend Karrine teaches him to thump on it once for yes and twice for no, and so his bucket becomes a drum. Henri takes to drumming to fill the silence in his mind and the pain in his heart, imagining the tones to be the sound of his parents’ laughter, connecting with them through his rhythms. Boyd’s expressive watercolor illustrations capture Henri’s emotional struggles and throw the danger of crossing the ocean in a rowboat into vivid relief. The story highlights the realities faced by children all over the world whose lives are uprooted by calamity. Although the context for Henri’s removal from Haiti is unclear, astute readers can be guided to think about why he left, and to make connections to current events.