Review Blog

Feb 04 2016

The River and the Book by Alison Croggon

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Walker Books, 2015. ISBN 9781925081725
(Age: 10+) Alison Croggon is the author of the highly regarded Black Spring, and The Books of Pellinor. She is also a poet and opera librettist. This story is a fable for our times, beautifully written and resounding with messages that relate to the way of the world in past and present times. Here is a village set on a fertile riverbank, midway between mountains and a floodplain. The village has a traditional 'Keeper' of a Book which gives the village its identity and which can predict change. One day, a foreign visitor comes to the village, endears herself to the villagers, in particular, Simbala the latest Keeper, and manages to steal the precious Book from them. It is Simbala who takes the blame and who sets out to return this treasured item to the village. It is a quest which takes many years; she knows too that times have greatly changed and wonders if the book she eventually finds will come 'back to life' for her people. The story is an analogy for colonialism and reveals what can happen when there is often a total disregard for a people's culture, and for the natural environment, all for the sake of development. The River and the Book has been endorsed by Amnesty International as contributing to a better understanding of human rights and values.
The story is spellbinding and the character of Simbala is a delight to heed and observe as she journeys on her determined path. In a beautifully poetic style, the language is intoxicating and recalls the storytellers of past ages. Katie Harnett's superb black and white brushstrokes illustrate the beginnings of each chapter and her coloured cover art is most attractive.
Julie Wells

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