Like Water on Stone (with free teaching guide)

by Dana Walrath

Grade Level: Eighth Grade to Adult

Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath is a fictional account of the Armenian genocide. This novel in verse recounts the flight to America of three Armenian children after the Ottoman Turks confiscate their family’s flour mill and murder their parents. For sixty-three days the children travel on foot, above the tree line of the Caucasus Mountains and through the Syrian Desert, to reach refuge in Aleppo, Syria. Taken in by a sympathetic Arab shopkeeper, the children disguise themselves as Arabs to avoid being forcibly relocated to the Deir el-Zor concentration camp, where starvation and barbarity led to certain death. After three years in hiding, the children finally receive a letter and boat tickets to America from their maternal uncle. (Random House)

Teaching Guide available for download

From School Library Journal:

Thirteen-year-old Aremenian twins Shahen and his sister, Sosi, live in the 1914 Ottoman Empire with their loving parents; younger sister, Miriam; and older brothers Misak and Kevorg. A Christian like the rest of their family, their 19-year-old sister, Anahid, is married to Asan, a Kurd, and is expecting a baby. Life is pleasant in their mixed religious community where their family makes its living as millers. However, when the cruel and hateful leaders of the Ottoman Empire decide at the start of World War I that the Armenians are “traitors” and should be eliminated, genocide ensues. Anahid is hidden by her in-laws at the risk of their own lives. Forced to leave their parents and brothers behind to certain death, Shahen, Sosi, and little Miriam barely escape and make a harrowing journey across the mountains, hoping for rescue and to somehow reach their uncle who lives in America. As Ardziv, an eagle, soars above, he adds a note of magical realism and a sense of omnipresent poetic narration to the authentic voices of the family members as he witnesses their joys, shock, and heartbreak. This beautiful, yet at times brutally vivid, historical verse novel will bring this horrifying, tragic period to life for astute, mature readers who enjoy books in this format or genre such as The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle (Holt, 2008) and Between Shades of Gray by Ruth Sepetys (Philomel, 2011). A cast of characters, and author note with historical background are thoughtfully included.—Diane P. Tuccillo, Poudre River Public Library District, CO –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Download the Random House teaching guide here.