Reviews /

The Dam

Authored by David Almond
Illustrated by Levi Pinfold
Published by Walker Studio

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Once the dam is finished, the land will be lost forever. But before it is flooded Kathryn and her father fill the empty homes with one last song.

This exquisite and hauntingly beautiful book tells the true story of an area of Northumberland, which is about to be submerged forever, due to the building of a new dam. Just before the dam is complete, as day is dawning, a father, his daughter and her fiddle go into the valley one last time. They play music, sing and dance in the abandoned buildings ‘for all that are gone and for all that are still to come’ until all the houses are filled with music.

The breath-taking fusion of the David Almond text and Levi Pinfold illustrations imbue the story with a cinematic quality. I found myself lost in the detail of some of the pages which had graphic-novel-like multiple images then looking outwards onto two-page panoramic scenes of the valley.

All ages could enjoy images from the book, but I would specifically recommend using this with upper key stage 2 to explore the issues of loss, hope and the enduring power of music, especially as it includes reference to ghosts (although this could also be interpreted as the music.) It would be great as a guided reading text, but I can also see it being used as a whole class text over a more extended period. It would also be interesting to compare this book with others that use a similar style, such as The Arrival by Shaun Tan.

Overall this is a must-have for any upper KS2 shelf and a book that stays with you long after the book cover is closed.

This title features in our Year 5 Reading Gladiators collection and now has a full teaching sequence in our Take One Book resource. We have included it in our year 5 sequences because the themes work well for this year group. To find out more about Take One Book visit

Shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal 2020. You will find many award winning books in our book selections. Please visit our Bookshop or contact us, if you have specific requests.