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In 2014, Flint, Michigan, was a cash-strapped city that had been built up, then abandoned by General Motors. As part of a plan to save money, government officials decided that Flint would temporarily switch its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Within months, many residents broke out in rashes. Then it got worse: children stopped growing. Some people were hospitalized with mysterious illnesses; others died. Citizens of Flint protested that the water was dangerous. Despite what seemed so apparent from the murky, foul-smelling liquid pouring from the city’s faucets, officials refused to listen. They treated the people of Flint as the problem, not the water, which was actually poisoning thousands.

Through interviews with residents and intensive research into legal records and news accounts, journalist Candy J. Cooper, assisted by writer-editor Marc Aronson, reveals the true story of Flint. Poisoned Water shows not just how the crisis unfolded in 2014, but also the history of racism and segregation that led up to it, the beliefs and attitudes that fueled it, and how the people of Flint fought―and are still fighting―for clean water and healthy lives.


Starred Review


Top Ten Books for Teens, 2020


Starred Review 


Editor's Choice, 2020


Starred Review

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Best Book, 2020



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“Thoroughly sourced and meticulously documented, this stomach-churning, blood-boiling, tear-jerking account synthesizes a city's herculean efforts to access safe, clean water. . . . This compulsively readable, must-buy narrative nonfiction serves as the ultimate antidote to civic complacence.”

-School Library Journal

“A careful, conscious encapsulation of a consequential U.S. frontier for renewed environmental justice activism.”

-Kirkus Reviews


“Poignant . . . This detailed offering, the first specifically intended for young audiences, has multiple curriculum applications.”

- Booklist

“Flint citizens need fresh coverage that respects their activism rather than their victimhood. This becomes the controlling theme of this vivid account.”


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"It is 2016 and the City of Flint says, "Don't boil the water"
Jonah Mixon-Webster, Incubation



The Coronavirus is Flint, Writ Large | Opinion

"If Flint, as one resident said, has served as the canary in this country's coal mine, then we must hearts loud cry -- before we are all poisoned."

Additional Reviews

Latest Flint book, “Poisoned Water” belongs in classrooms, libraries all over America

"In chapter after chapter, Cooper’s crisp imagery that borders on brilliance at times, her translation of complex water chemistry for common folk, the continuing introduction of bureaucratic villains and citizen-superheroes, and the narrative’s spotlight repeatedly shining on Flint’s children victims makes Poisoned Water a book for all ages. A copy of this book should be available in libraries and classrooms all over America.” Full review:

-East Village Magazine, Flint, MI.




"This striking account of the Flint, Michigan, water crisis shows how systemic racism disproportionately impacts the health of marginalized citizens." Full Review

-American Library Association Notable Childrens Book, 2021

"Racism and poverty suffuse a potent blend of personal stories that show how citizen complaints are met with incompetence, indifference and inaction; how government fails; how sampling and evidence are discounted; how activists ultimately prevail; and how kindness manages to shine through.”

- San Francisco Chronicle




"These kinds of systemic injustices are extremely well researched, allowing the reader to grasp the complexities of this crisis as more than just an environmental crisis, but one born out of many layers of structural violence, systemic racism, and income inequality. For these reasons, this book comes highly recommended."

-Social Justice Books




"And boy, what a book! A nonfiction accounting of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan is both well-written and cringe-worthy. The multiple failures that maintained the secrecy and then the continued ignorance of the problem is explained in great detail by highlighting the citizen activists who took charge of holding people accountable. Poisoned Water gets the prize for encompassing all aspects of the story for a teen audience which includes STEM and citizenship, advocacy and politics. And Cooper also includes well-placed pictures to show how the water affected the skin simply from using the water to bathe but also showing what the brown liquid looked like in a bottle that would be unsuitable for drinking."

-Readers Be Advised, Oustanding Book of the Month




Really thorough look at the crisis. Examines the history of Flint to put the tragedy in context. Full of quotes and pictures, and many voices of young people, readers will leave this book understanding more about environmental racism and justice. Be ready to be infuriated.

-Teen Librarian Toolbox 




"The story is a wonder of reportage – fast paced, suspenseful, richly drawn characters...For the young adult audience or the time pressed adults, “Poisoned Waters” is a purely engrossing book. You will leave the book feeling inspired by the story’s heroes and empowered to benefit your own community. I highly recommend it."

- Miesha Wilson Headen, Goodreads




"All right people, listen to me about this book. This needs to be read by every person in the nation, handed to every teen and talked about at every school and across every dinner table…. It is also a compelling account, as impossible to put down as a thriller and twice as horrifying because it actually happened to real people who are still suffering today.”

- Lynne Rutan, Goodreads




"Wow, a crushing, rage-inducing book about a city that utterly failed its citizens. Heart-filled, gripping and thorough, this book not only documents how money managers poisoned the water and hid the results, but it also shows the strength of the people of Flint...An excellent read."

- Jeanette, Goodreads

Teaching Tools 

Miami Book Fair Q+A 

Poisoned Water: How the Citizens of Flint, Michigan, Fought for Their Lives and Warned the Nation

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