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Big Day on the River

Big Day on the River

by Sarah Wilson

A little girl looks forward to her first solo raft ride on the river, but her well-meaning relatives don’t want to leave her alone.

At dawn, Willie danced her way to the river, joyful to be alone and grinning ear-to-ear.

“Yow-eee!” she shouted. “My first day out on the Wallawatchee, and nobody’s here to tell me


A little girl looks forward to her first solo raft ride on the river, but her well-meaning relatives don’t want to leave her alone.

At dawn, Willie danced her way to the river, joyful to be alone and grinning ear-to-ear.

“Yow-eee!” she shouted. “My first day out on the Wallawatchee, and nobody’s here to tell me what to do or how to do it!

Willie can’t wait to take her raft out on the river for the first time. Her loving relatives want her to have a wonderful trip, so they load the raft with everything she might need: watermelons and lemonade, sun umbrellas and warm blankets, and even a camp stove. There’s hardly enough room left for Willie!

But this resourceful girl isn’t about to let anything sink her plans—not even her wonderful family. She’ll have her own riotous river adventure yet!

Bestselling author Sarah Wilson has created an irresistible story about a spunky little girl’s first steps toward independence.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A pitch-perfect picture book." —School Library Journal, starred

Publishers Weekly
Sunny and silly, Wilson's (Love and Kisses) lark of a tale pits a spunky girl against her too-helpful relatives. Willie can't wait to go rafting all by herself: " `Yow-eee!' she shouted. `My first day out on the Wallawatchee, and nobody's here to tell me what to do or how to do it!' " That is, until Gramma Clementia brings Willie a "bumpy bag of apples" ("You'll be hungry as a hound by midmorning!" Gramma says), Grampa Ezekiel shows up with a blanket to prevent "ice-bumps," Uncle Mumpford brings a chair, Cousin Clyde donates a hefty pot of beans, and so on until the vessel sinks under the weighty cargo. Everyone jumps into the river to save his or her gifts, then renounces his meddlesome ways, at last leaving the girl to set off blissfully alone. Using bright acrylic gouache that bear a light-suffused similarity to rag-rolled walls, Cecil (Dusty Locks and the Three Bears) portrays this quirky crew with squatty bodies, big heads, bulbous noses and rubbery limbs. Wilson studs her prose with equally unconventional colloquialisms ("laughing fit to burst"), yoked-together adjectives ("sad-perplexed," "shoulder-high-shallow") and oddly named characters (e.g., Uncle Binderbus). Youngsters who go along for the ride should savor both the slapstick touches and Willie's independent spirit. Ages 4-7. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
At dawn, Willie dances to the river anxious to try out her new raft on the Wallawatchie. One by one her loving relatives arrive with various gifts. Gramma Clemmie delivers a large bag of apples while exclaiming, "It's a long-toed river out there. You'll be as hungry as a hound by midmorning!" Gramma Em brings a huge watermelon "heavier than a full-grown raccoon in a washtub." By the time the rocking chair, baked beans, bicycle, camp stove, picnic basket, lemonade, hot chocolate, and sock umbrella arrive, it just takes the cannonball leap of bouncing Cousin Clyde to sink the whole durn thing. Hillarious relative action ensues and the story floats to a satisfying conclusion. Wonderful illustrations, full of color and motion follow the rollicking adventure. Delightful expressions and catchy dialogue are bound to make Wilson's book a well-loved favorite. 2003, Henry Holt and Company, Ages 4 to 8.
— Laura Hummel
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-"Skinny-legs-tall" Willie dances her way down to the Wallawatchee, looking forward to a day alone on her raft on the river, but she doesn't count on the overzealous love of her many family members, who appear at the dock one by one. They bring her "a bumpy bag of apples," "a huge plump watermelon," "an umbrella as tall as a beanpole," "a scratchy-looking blanket," her bicycle, and much, much more. All of this, combined with Cousin Clyde's cannonball dive onto the raft, leads to the inevitable, and the girl has to tell her family, very nicely, "All I really need- are your hugs, your kisses, and your very best wishes!" Wilson's cheeky text sings, aided by the excellent use of alliteration ("The day was a dazzle") and colorful figures of speech ("The watermelon was heavier than a full-grown raccoon in a washtub"). Cecil's gouache illustrations, crowded with smiling, amiable folk wearing neat overalls and aprons, capture the comedy and down-home charm of this tale and its lovable characters. A pitch-perfect picture book.-Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Maryland School for the Deaf, Columbia Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Willie starts out at dawn for a solo raft ride on the Wallawatchee River. She has barely lowered herself on to the tiny craft when a parade of relatives begins. Grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, and cousins all bring her items they think she will need on her short trip. From a lumpy sack of apples to a camp stove complete with a four-pound pot of beans, each helpful item takes up more space and weighs down the raft until Cousin Clyde himself hops on and sinks everything into the Wallawatchee. Once she's afloat again, Willie thanks everyone but tells them all she needs from them is their hugs, their kisses, and their best wishes. Only then is she able to set out with her two silent duck buddies and her backpack for her planned day. Wilson (George Hogglesberry: Grade School Alien, 2002, etc.) tells Willie's story with breezy prose dotted and peppered with mountain slang and silly similes. Gramma Em's watermelon is "heavier than a full-grown raccoon in a washtub" and Cousin Clyde jumps through the air "like a cow riding a cannonball." Cecil's (Ugly Princess and the Wise Fool, not reviewed, etc.) sunny, acrylic gouache illustrations feature a happy, clean, country family, all but Willie sharing the same oversized nose. The two work well together. A good tale of a spunky girl for independent or group reading. (Picture book. 4-8)

Product Details

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
8.82(w) x 11.28(h) x 0.41(d)
Age Range:
4 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

Sarah Wilson is the author, and sometimes the illustrator, of many books for children, including Love and Kisses. She lives in Danville, California.

Randy Cecil has illustrated a number of children’s books about spunky little girls. He lives in Houston, Texas.

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