Title: The Dam
Author: David Almond
Illustrator: Levi Pinfold
Publisher: Walker Studio
Genre: Children’s picture book
Book format: Paperback
Description: Once the dam is finished, the land will be flooded. But before it is lost for ever, Kathryn and her father return to the still and silent valley and fill the empty homes with one final song. And if you listen closely you can still hear it – a song for all that was and all that will never be.
A striking collaboration by master creators David Almond and Levi Pinfold that explores loss, hope and the enduring power of music, set against the wild and beautiful Northumberland landscape.
*Free copy provided by publisher for review…
Review: This is an interesting book which has a poignant story, but it might not be enjoyed that much by children as it will be by adults. ‘The Dam’ is around A4 in size and filled with glossy thick pages of illustrations and text. The story follows a father and his daughter as they visit the place in a valley which will soon be flooded when a dam is completed. The area is already abandoned, people have moved out, but the father and the girl decide to bring music to the area, to sing and to play the violin one last time, to honour those who lived there before.
The story is a simple one with the father and daughter waking up one morning and heading to the area, creating their music that one last time before the dam floods everything. The dam is then flooded but the music and memories of those before never die, they are always remembered with more singing, dancing and music. The story is actually based on the Kielder Water dam in North Northumberland which really was created, flooding the area in 1981. This information is at the back of the book which helps the story to make more sense for those that don’t know it. However, despite knowing this tale and the poignancy of the loss of an area when it is flooded, I don’t know if kids will really enjoy this picture book.
The words are almost poetic in this story, there is a feeling of the loss of everything, and there are some lovely illustrations of the spirits of those before remembered, but the words, at times, are so poetic that reading this purely from a child-like perspective, I struggle to understand any of it. There is a feeling of the sadness that surrounds the tale, and for those that remember the actual dam flooding, or a similar incident, this might bring back memories or evoke strong feelings, but it’s not really something I think any children will understand without help, and even then I’m not sure if they will really appreciate the story that much.
The illustrations are lovely and very clear. They evoke a real sense of the dark and depressing atmosphere and the feeling of the impending loss of the area. I really liked how the spirits of those past are drawn, and how well the pictures show the overall darker atmosphere. After the dam is flooded the illustrations have a lighter tone and are more colourful, bringing a sense of happiness despite the flooding. However as a picture book that’s aimed at children, I really don’t like just how dark and dreary the images look. The illustrations really are poignant and good, and I do like this style of illustrations, especially when evoking dark feelings of loss. But as a children’s book i just don’t think this will really engage that many kids. It’s certainly not a book I would have been that interested in looking at as a child, and except for the double page image of the father and daughter creating their music, which is interesting to look at, I don’t think any of the other images are quite as powerful that they would make me want to read this when I was younger.
This book is lovely, based on real people and a real event in history, however I’m really not sure that children will enjoy the book and that’s a shame. If there was a market for short picture books aimed at adults then I think this would fit better there, but as a book aimed at children, I just don’t know if any child would really appreciate it, especially if they don’t live in Northumberland and don’t know about the dam. In the end I don’t quite know who to recommend this book to. It’s a lovely book with poignant images and story but I think adults will appreciate it far more than children.
What do you think of this book? Do you have any memories of the real dam or similar moments in history? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂