Water. Lapping right up to the edge of his room. There was no hallway, no bathroom, no rest of the house. A little wave splashed onto his bare toes. He quickly shut the door.
“What the ---?”
Rafe spoke out loud. His heart pounded. There was no hope of calming down now. His room—and only his room—was floating on the ocean like a little box. The rest of the house was gone. His parents and his dog were gone. The street was gone. Everything was gone except water and sky.
And then he heard something.
Barking! His dog wasn’t gone! He’d recognize Buddy’s voice anywhere.
Rafe, 12, awakens to the sensation of movement. When he checks outside his window, he is surprised to see that his bedroom is floating in the ocean, his parents and the rest of his house missing. After rescuing his dog Buddy from the roof, Rafe sets about learning to survive on his own. He scoops up cans of food as they float by, collects rainwater for drinking, creates an art installation from a carton of rubber duckies, and discovers the comforts to be found in a good book. His encounters with other humans are few and far between: a young woman on a raft drifts by while playing the cello; a marauding band of pirates tries to steal his food; and Dao, a young girl from Thailand whom he rescues from a floating mattress, becomes a sibling-like companion. Eventually the two encounter the pile—a floating heap of refuse called home by over 200 refugees. Will Rafe and Dao join the group, or continue on their own?
This apocalyptic Robinsonade makes unusual middle grade fare. Each episodic chapter addresses a new problem to be solved—finding food, surviving a storm, evading pirates—and, for the most part, the challenges are all handled in short order. Fagan never addresses why this flood has occurred (tsunami? rising sea levels? climate change?), if its effects are global or localized, or probes any sadness on Rafe’s part now that he is an orphan. In fact, many younger readers may read this as simply a grand fantasy adventure tale. John McNaught’s blue, black, and white cartoon-style illustrations appear in every chapter, helping to break up the text and assisting younger readers in visualizing the story’s details. Water, Water is an accessible adventure that may spark deeper discussions.
Kay Weisman is a former youth services librarian at West Vancouver Memorial Library and the author of If You Want to Visit a Sea Garden. (www.cmreviews.ca/node/1693)