Song of the River
Gecko Press, 2019
32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99
High in the mountains where he lives, Cam tells his grandfather that he wishes he could see the sea and his grandfather promises to take him there “one day.”
But as winter turns to spring and the snows begin to melt, Cam watches a trickle of water running through the pine trees, water that splashed and sang in the voice of the snow,
Come with me. Come with me. I will take you to the sea.” And unable to resist its song, Cam follows it and begins a journey that broadens his horizons in so many ways.
The beautiful, lyrical words of one of New Zealand’s premier authors for children, Joy Cowley and the stunning, detailed, muted illustrations of Kimberly Andrews which echo both the high country of New Zealand and the Canada of her childhood come together in what is indeed a song of the river. With a text that builds much like the river itself, rises to a crescendo and then returns to its original melody like a piece of music, this is indeed an aptly named story both in content and style. It lends itself to all sorts of mapping activities, more than just the physical journey of the trickle to the sea. Even exploring why the author named it “Song of the River” rather than “Story of the River” will open up the beauty of the language and the build-up of the journey.
With a landscape very different from those of the illustrations, and much of the country in one of the worst drought’s ever, this is an ideal book to begin an investigation of Australia’s rivers and compare their origins and uses to those of the river in the story. A search of the NDLRN using Scootle will bring up a number of units of work focusing on the Murray-Darling Basin such as A Sense of Place (TLF ID R11374) (written by me for Year 3-4 but which could be adapted for both age and situation) that could be the perfect companions to maximise the impact of this book.