The dam by David Almond

cover image

Ill. by Levi Pinfold. Walker Studio, 2018. ISBN 9781406304879
(Age: all) Highly recommended. Themes: Conservation, Environment, Music, Dams, Loss, Hope, Picture book for older readers. Based on a true story told to Almond by musicians Kathryn and Mike Tickells, The dam celebrates the power of the human spirit and the beauty of music. In the 1980's, the largest artificial lake in the UK, was formed. Farms and houses were submerged and a village drowned, as the Keilder Valley was dammed and allowed to fill with water over the following two years. This wild and beautiful part of North Northumberland would be inundated. But before this happened a father and his daughter visited each of the houses in turn, the girl playing her fiddle and the father singing for the last time within the walls.
This part of England is well known for its rich musical history and the work done by the girl and her father heralded the importance of music to the people whose houses were disappearing. Their music evoked the very essence of the houses and the people, ensuring its survival. The lake is now a beautiful place, full of history and music which can never be stilled. While the past can be mourned, the present remembers the past through the music which can still be heard, if people stop to listen. Behind the dam Within the water the music stays, Will never be gone.
Beautifully illustrated by Queensland illustrator, Levi Pinfold, this poignant picture book will stay with readers as they think about change and its impact on us all. The musicians and their music come alive on the pages, the love for music shining through the pages, with people singing and dancing on the banks of the lake as the music is celebrated even though the landscape has undergone incredible change.
This is an unforgettable picture book, with author and illustrator combining to give the reader a story full of the sadness of change, but using music to garner the forces which remind us of what has gone before, impelling us never to forget. The luminous illustrations, sepia at first, adds more blue to the palette as the story gathers force, reminding us that although change happens, the past can be remembered and celebrated through music.
The sweeping vistas of the Northumberland landscape will astound the readers, their brooding vastness there to be seen and almost touched in these illustrations. The wonderful squat stone houses, empty for the rising water are gorgeously portrayed, redolent of the past and now filled with music waiting for the inundation. A book to savour.
Fran Knight