May 7, 2017


Marc Martin's A River opens on a wordless spread of a girl at a drawing table in her room. She's surrounded by toys and books and her cat, but the girl's focus is on the window and the river that lies beyond it. It's a wonderfully apt introduction to the story, giving readers time to process this girl's life as it is (and sans words) before she begins to ponder where the river could take her.

With every page flip, readers are taken to a different location along this river. In fact readers could line up each spread end-to-end and follow the river through all of the illustrations to mark a complete, visual journey through this girl's imagination. The spreads feature the river running through everything from cities to jungles to the ocean, and as the girl is swept along the pages, we get stronger insight into her imagination and dreams.

The watercolor, gouache, and pencil illustrations give us plenty to marvel at within each spread as we move past each location, and Martin isn't afraid to revisit certain scenes to provide a different point of view (ie day versus night). There's so much texture in each of his illustrations, and the things we see in each of the spreads beautifully parallel that first wordless scene, where we see all of the animals and places and plants the girl has in her room. She's clearly an imaginative and ambitious girl, and the river becomes a way for her to achieve her dreams of traveling the world and experiencing everything it has to offer her. 

A River published in March from Chronicle Books, and it's a book I would recommend to anyone looking to get swept away.

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