Song of the River

Cowley, Joy. Song of the River. Wellington, New Zealand: Gecko Press, 2019.
Where does the sea begin? In a trickle of water, high, high, up in the mountains. In a stream, running between snow-covered ground shaded by pine trees. Where does a stream run? Down, down, joining other streams, turning into a creek and into a river. Where does a river flow? Past farms, under bridges, through cities, joining other rivers to become a wide rushing highway to the sandy salty sea.  Illustrated by Kimberly Andrews and written by the award-winning Joy Cowley, this exhilarating picture book about a little boy who lives in the mountains is cheerfully recommended for readers five to eight years old.

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More stories from New Zealand

More stories by Joy Cowley…

Cowley, Joy. Snake and Lizard. La Jolla, Calif. : Kane/Miller, 2007.

This story of two friends who like helping others comes from New Zealand and will be much enjoyed by readers who are fond of Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel and George and Martha by James Marshall. 

Cowley, Joy. Friends: Snake and Lizard. Wellington, N.Z.: Gecko Press, 2011, c2009.

Chicken Feathers

Cowley, Joy. Chicken Feathers. New York: Philomel Books, 2008.

Josh spends the summer with his pet chicken Semolina while his mother is hospitalized until the birth of his sister. A touching story, comparable to Arthur, for the Very First Time by  Patricia MacLachlan. Both novels are by master storytellers, but this one is for younger readers. [Chickens; Family life; Farm life; Pets]

Cowley, Joy. Stories of the Wild West Gang. Wellington, NZ: Gecko Press, 2012.
Michael would far rather be having adventures with his cousins than staying at home with his quiet, proper mum and dad.  This lengthy collection of 10 hilarious stories, originally published separately, will appeal to readers who enjoy laughing. A great read-aloud! [New Zealand; Cousins; Humorous fiction; Adventure and adventurers; Family life]

They Call Me River

Albrecht, Maciek. They Call Me River. Petaluma, California: Cameron Kids, 2021.
A river begins as a raindrop, high above the mountains. It falls to earth and starts its journey to the sea, travelling along past families hiking, children swimming, a couple getting married outdoors,… And at the end, it becomes one with the ocean before rising to start the cycle over as a raindrop once again. This picture book lyrically explains the water cycle, but it also tells the story of human life. We are all carried along by the currents of life, growing, changing, entering into relationships and then, finally, letting go at the end. Beautiful collages full of intriguing details help to create a book that can be enjoyed at many different levels: literally, psychologically, philosophically, even spiritually. Highly recommended for ages 6 and up.

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What is a River?

Vaicenavičienė, Monika. What is a River? New York: Enchanted Lion Books, 2021.

A thread. A meeting place. A mystery. A reflection…. A grandmother uses fourteen metaphors to describe a river in this exquisite picture book full of facts about history and geography. The style and relatively small size of the font make the book most suitable for adults to read to young children or older readers to read on their own. But for any age, the rhythm of the sentences and the details of the illustrations require a mind that can linger on each page, appreciating the gentle flow of the story. A book to buy! Highly recommended for readers 8 years old and up.

P.S. Teachers might like to use this book as an introduction to metaphors. Or as an introduction to writing nonfiction essays using a literary style. 

P.P.S. Readers travelling around the world through books might like to know that this book was originally written in Swedish. The author now lives in Vilinius, Lithuania. 

P.P.P.S. Older readers who appreciate fact-filled picture books about history might like to look for books by Peter Sis: Nicky and Vera, The Wall.

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Every Day the River Changes

Salama, Jordan. Every Day the River Changes: Four Weeks Down the Magdalena. New York : Catapult, 2021.
Drug lords and gangs. The country of Columbia is often known only for its crime. This fascinating travelogue – by a young New York writer – tells the story of the other people who live along the Magdalena River, the ones who have survived years of fighting between government forces, paramilitaries, and guerrillas. It tells the story of how they have been affected by environmental and political changes but continue to carry on making their home along the longest river in Columbia.  Included is an intriguing chapter on Luis Soriano, the man famous for starting the ‘biblioburro’ travelling libraries and the subject of several picture books. While this nonfiction book is not for young children, it is highly recommended for competent mature readers 15 years old and up.

More books about Columbia…

Brown, Monica. Waiting for the BiblioburroTricycle Press, 2011.
Ana is so excited when books arrive in her small, remote village that she writes her own story about waiting for the travelling library – two burros loaded with books – to come again. Includes a note about travelling libraries in other remote areas of the world. [Columbia; Books and reading; Libraries].

Picture 2

Winter, Jeanette. Biblioburro: A True Story from Columbia. Beach Lane Books, 2010.
Luis travels through the villages of rural Columbia, bringing books for children for children to read. [Books and reading; Columbia; Donkeys; Teachers]

Kunkel, Angela Burke. Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutíerrez and the Library He Built. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020.
A night-time garbage collector, Señor José collects books from the trash of wealthy homes. Then, every Saturday, he opens the doors and welcomes eager children into his neighbourhood library. Set in  Bogotá, Columbia and based on a true story, this inspiring picture book – illustrated by Paola Escobar and accompanied by a detailed author’s note – will appeal to readers 7 to 12 years old who already know the joys of using imagination to enter new worlds. 

Durango, Julia. The Walls of Cartagena. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2008.
“Thirteen-year-old Calepino, an African slave in the seventeenth-century Caribbean city of Cartagena, works as a translator for a Jesuit priest who tends to newly-arrived slaves and, after working for a Jewish doctor in a leper colony and helping an Angolan boy and his mother escape, he realizes his true calling.” – CIP. Highly recommended for readers 11 to 16 years old. [Catholic Church; Colombia; Faith; Leprosy; Slavery]

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World Rivers Day

“My favourite places on earth are the wild waterways where the forest opens its arms and a silver curve of river folds the traveller into its embrace.” – Rory MacLean, historian & writer

“I think the kind of landscape that you grew up in, it lives with you. I don’t think it’s true of people who’ve grown up in cities so much; you may love a building, but I don’t think that you can love it in the way that you love a tree or a river or the colour of the earth; it’s a different kind of love.” – Arundhati Roy, writer

Books about Rivers

Rivers of the World

September 24th is World Rivers Day!

Peters, Merilee. Ten Rivers That Shaped the World. Toronto: Annick Press, 2015.

The Nile. The Amazon. the Mississippi. The Tigris and Euphrates. The Thames and Rhine in Europe. The Yangtze and Ganges in Asia. The Zambezi and Awash in Africa. These 10 rivers have changed the course of history. And they still affect life today. 10 Rivers That Shaped the World, an easy-to-read book full of anecdotes, coloured photographs, maps, and drawings, is highly recommended for all readers – 11 years old and up – who enjoy expanding their general knowledge.

Did you know?

3,000 species of freshwater fish have been discovered in the Amazon.

Ancient Egyptians were the first people in the world to pay taxes, which were based on the height of the Nile floods: higher floods meant greater harvests which led to higher taxes.

The nursery rhyme of London Bridge falling down may recall the Viking invasion of 1014.

Musicians on riverboats helped spread jazz and blues north along the Mississippi in the early 20th century.

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