The Dam by David Almond & Levi Pinfold

The Dam is written by Carnegie and multi awarded medallist David Almond who wrote Skellig, Clay, Slog’s Dad and other renowned books. It is illustrated by Queensland-based artist Levi Pinfold who previously won the Greenaway Medal for Black Dog. Levi Pinfold has now been shortlisted for The Dam in what is probably the world’s most prestigious award for illustration, the Kate Greenaway Medal.

The Dam has already won the Italian Andersen Prize and is published by Walker Books.

Levi Pinfold’s illustrations evoke those of Chris Van Allsburg (The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, The Polar Express and Jumanji) and of Shaun Tan, whose Tales from the Inner City has been shortlisted for the same award.

Based on a true story in Northumberland when a valley was flooded to make a dam, Almond and Pinfold have created an enduring work of art.

Kathryn’s father woke her at dawn and took her, with her fiddle, to the valley to be flooded. They acknowledge and cherish the land, habitat and its creatures that will be submerged. They treasure the precious places, the flowers, grasses and birds.

The Dam illustrated by Levi Pinfold (from the illustrator’s website)

They reminisce about those who played music, Archie Dagg the piper, Gracie Gray “of the gorgeous voice” and Bill Scott who taught Kathryn the songs she remembers still. For a day they play inside each deserted house. They fill each house with music before it is filled with water. Memories of music and dance conjure sprite-like creatures. Memories are upheld by music and continue to be sustained in the birds, waves and nature that survive.

Wide landscapes of the valley, land and sky evoke space. Vignettes of plants, mice, deer and empty homes personalise what will disappear.

The addition of new colours and flowers when the valley is filled with water is beautiful and signifies the complexity of what is lost and gained. Once the dam is full people still “walk the shores … sail its satin surface … fish its fertile waters”. As they look up and around, they are saturated with the music of the past, present and future.

The Dam illustrated by Levi Pinfold (from the illustrator’s website)

The Dam does not place a value judgement on whether dams should be built. It commemorates what is lost when dams replace special places and communities but does not condemn their new state. It embraces a renewed place of beauty and community.

David Almond’s website is

Levi Pinfold’s website is

Teacher Notes are available at

I reviewed Levi Pinfold’s The Song from Somewhere Else written by A.F Harrold, another book filled with music, for Megan over at Children’s Books Daily.

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