“In our village we had two treasures: the River, which was our road and our god; and the book, which was our history, our oracle and our soul.”
– Alison Croggon, The River and the Book
In our village we had two treasures: the River, which was our road and our god; and the Book, which was our history, our oracle and our soul. Simbala is a Keeper of the Book, the latest in a long line of women who can read the Book to find answers to the villagers’ questions. As developers begin to poison the river on which the villagers rely, the Book predicts change. But this does not come in the form that they expect; it is the sympathetic Westerner who comes to the village who inflicts the greatest damage of all.
The River and the Book by Alison Croggon is one of those beautiful stories that will take your breath away. Sent to me by Walker Books to review, this is the kind of book I may not have seen had it not been put in front of me. There are times when I am so thankful for this little hobby as it delivers goodies to my mailbox that challenge, excite and educate.
Sim is a Keeper of the Book, the latest in a long line of women in her family who can read the Book and find the answers the villagers seek. The River shapes the lives of those who live in Sim’s village; it provides them with drinking water and food, a way of keeping clean, and a way of growing and maintaining a livelihood. It is their source of life and when developers begin to poison the waterway and the River begins to die, the Book predicts that change will come.
The Book and the River is a cautionary tale told in a sweet and lyrical voice. Combining magical realism and fable, this story shows how a community and landscape can be destroyed by the greed of others. It is a truly beautiful story about kindness, forgiveness and above all, respect. It is about showing respect for the land and the people who live on it and for the traditions that they live by.
Sim is one of the sweetest voices I have read this year. Told with the wisdom of many generations, she is a voice of curiosity and strength. She suffers loss, and witnesses the hardships of many people. She experiences kindness in the most unlikely of places and finds herself on a journey away from home.
At its core, The River and the Book is a story about human rights. Sim’s story is about standing up for those who are abused but also standing up for ourselves. Amnesty International endorses Croggan’s story for ‘contributing to a better understanding of human rights and the values that underpin them.’ As usual, this book is written for young readers but there is so much that older reader can gain too –a really, really beautiful book!
AUTHOR: Alison Croggon
PUBLISHER: Walker Books Australia
PUB DATE: 1 October 2015
Thank you to Walker Books for sending me a reading copy in exchange for an honest review!