Environmental Integrity

Of Words and Water: The Story of Wilma Dykeman

by Shannon Hitchcock, with illustrations by Sophie Page

Start Date:
May 25, 2024
End Date:
11:00 AM
Wrong Way River Cabins, Asheville

Author Shannon Hitchcock and Wilma Dykeman's son Jim Stokely will discuss Of Words and Water, as well as Wilma's life and work, at Wrong Way River Lodge & Cabins

(9 Midnight Dr, Asheville, NC 28806).



The Story of Wilma Dykeman--Writer, Historian, Environmentalist

Author: Shannon Hitchcock

Illustrator: Sophie Page

Review Issue Date: March 1, 2024

Online Publish Date: February 3, 2024

Publisher: Reycraft Books

Price (Hardcover): $18.95

Price (Softcover): $9.95

Publication Date: April 16, 2024

ISBN (Hardcover): 9781478870371

ISBN (Softcover): 9781478870470

Section: Children's


Seven years before Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) was published, Wilma Dykeman’s The French Broad (1955) illuminated the devastating effects of pollution. Featuring striking illustrations that make use of clay, paper, fabric, and wire, this book tells the story of Wilma Dykeman (1920-2006), a lesser-known pioneering environmentalist. Text presented in small but clear hand-lettering recounts her solitary childhood in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where nature was her constant companion. In winter, when her mother read aloud, Wilma fell in love with “the sound of words.” When her father died, the 14-year-old Wilma “knew her life would never be the same.” After earning a college scholarship, she left her mother and the mountains she loved. Following college, she met James Stokely, and her life changed again. Together, they lived in the Smoky Mountains and researched the lives of those who lived along the French Broad River, uncovering the water pollution that plagued their neighbors along the river. The publisher who accepted Wilma’s book about the river wanted her to excise the pollution story; she refused. Her aim was to inspire everyone to clean up the water; she argued that factories and businesses could coexist with clean water, to everyone’s benefit. She wanted to “use words to fight injustice,” and she did, in columns, books, and speeches. The author’s note adds details that deepen this stirring story. The pictures, many double-page spreads, dominated by blues and greens, are enthrallingly fresh.

Elevates a conservationist who deserves to be far better known. (Picture-book biography. 6-8)