David Almond (text), & Levi Pinfold (illustrations), The Dam, Walker Studio, September 1 2018, 32 pp. $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781406304879
The Dam is a hauntingly beautiful picture book by multi-award winning creators David Almond and Levi Pinfold.
Set in wild North Northumberland, it tells the true story of Kielder Water, the largest artificial lake in the United Kingdom. Now a popular place for walking, boating and fishing, Kielder Water was once a valley with its own village, farms, a school, several homesteads and a stretch of railway. It was a wildly beautiful place, rich in folk music, story and legend.
The story is set just as the dam is completed. But before the valley is flooded and the life they know is washed away forever, a father takes his daughter, Kathryn for one last walk around. Together they play the fiddle, sing and dance, filling the valley and its silent empty buildings with music one last time; one final song for all that it was and all that it would never be.
This book gave me goose bumps.
The short, powerful sentences-mostly dialogue between father and daughter- carry a very melancholy tone. But there is also the powerful message that while change might mean the loss of some things, it also heralds new opportunities. Towards the end of the book, the focus shifts away from what has been lost and looks forward to what is yet to come.
The landscape orientation of the book allows for gorgeous, sweeping illustrations that perfectly portraying the wild natural beauty of the North Northumberland landscape. Muted tones at the start of the story gradually become brighter as colour, like hope, finds a way.
Readers may find it interesting to know that Kathryn and her father are based on real people. Kathryn Tickell grew up to be a famous folk musician and composer while her father Mike is a singer songwriter, further proof that even in the face of loss, hope – and music – endure.
Reviewed by Deb Kelly