The Raft (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

( 6 )


A flock of birds was moving toward me along the river, hovering over something floating on the water. It drifted downstream, closer and closer, until finally it bumped up against the dock. Though it was covered with leaves and branches, now I could tell that it was a raft. I reached down and pushed some of the leaves aside. Beneath them was a drawing of a rabbit. It looked like those ancient cave paintings I'd seen in books—just outlines, but wild and fast and free.

Nicky isn't ...

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A flock of birds was moving toward me along the river, hovering over something floating on the water. It drifted downstream, closer and closer, until finally it bumped up against the dock. Though it was covered with leaves and branches, now I could tell that it was a raft. I reached down and pushed some of the leaves aside. Beneath them was a drawing of a rabbit. It looked like those ancient cave paintings I'd seen in books—just outlines, but wild and fast and free.

Nicky isn't one bit happy about spending the summer with his grandma in the Wisconsin woods, but them the raft appears and changes everything. As Nicky explores, the raft works a subtle magic, opening up the wonders all around him—the animals of river and woods, his grandmother's humor and wisdom, and his own special talent as an artist.

Reluctuant Nicky spends a wonderful summer with Grandma who introduces him to the joy of rafting down the river near her home and watching the animals along the banks.

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Editorial Reviews

Horn Book
The luminous illustrations evoke a magical aura.
Publishers Weekly
Nicky's summer vacation in the Wisconsin woods fills up with quiet adventures when he discovers a raft covered with drawings of wild animals. PW's starred review praised the "exquisitely rendered" pastel drawings that "bathe the images in the bewitching glow of a riverfront dawn and dusk." Ages 6-up. (June) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
When I first read this book, it touched me in a way I never imagined. I mourned for the kids who have spent endless nights in front of the television and have never ventured outdoors. They have never experienced the beauty of nature. I was hooked from the very beginning, when reading a note from the author: "This story is like the cigar box I kept as a boy—it is full of bits and pieces of my boyhood summers." And indeed it is. Young Nicky is indignant because he has to spend the summer with his unusual grandmother out in the country. This is a woman who does not even own a TV. Things get off to a rocky start when grandmother offers him cornbread, something he does not like. And the living room is not for sitting; it is a river rat's workroom, full of books, sketches, and a half-finished carving of a bear. But, grandmother proves to be a wise woman and keeps him busy by sending him down to the river to fish for blue gills. It is there he discovers a raft floating on the river by itself. And drawn on the raft, are a bear, a fox, and a raccoon. Who had drawn them, he wonders, and where had the raft come from? From then on, his days are filled with adventures aboard the mysterious raft, as he discovers the river in a brand new way. Through Nicky's eyes we behold how creatures big and small dwell in a river habitat. The author is also the illustrator, showcasing his incredible talent through the wonderful details he observed while on the journey. 2002 (orig. 1999), HarperTrophy/HarperCollins, Ages 6 up.
—Robyn Gioia
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
Nicky is far from enthusiastic about being dropped off in the north woods to spend the summer with his grandmother. But grandma is an artist and free thinker. She gives the quiet boy lots of space and maybe even a very special gift. When an old raft bumps up next to Nicky along the river one day, he begins to explore its possibilities. Along the way, he finds a love for the river, for nature and art, and for his grandmother, too. All summers should pass this way. LaMarche's story and lovely pictures are based on his own childhood experiences. He tells and illustrates his tale gently and with much affection. This is a keeper. 2000, HarperCollins, Ages 4 to 7, $15.95. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-This dazzling picture book is an artistic triumph. LaMarche introduces young readers to a visually resplendent, magical world that is nevertheless so real they can almost touch it. Nicky, a sweet, sullen little boy from a middle-class urban household, feels hurt and abandoned when his father deposits him at his grandmother's home in the woods for the summer. "Dust rose up behind our car as it disappeared into the pines," Nicky mourns to himself in the story's opening paragraphs, looking for all the world like a puppy put out in the middle of nowhere. After finding a decorated raft adrift in the nearby river, the child and his artist grandmother pass sun-drenched days floating on it. He credits the raft with helping him befriend a growing menagerie of preternaturally tame woodland creatures, all of which he incorporates into a burgeoning passion for drawing and painting of his own. Nicky's descriptive first-person narration supports the radiant, expressive illustrations that are the book's greatest strength; his eyes and face communicate an array of instantly recognizable childhood feelings. LaMarche imbues the beauty and wonder of nature with an otherworldly glow that leaves the river and woods gilt and gleaming, even after nightfall. Readers who see this enchanted forest through Nicky's eyes will almost certainly recognize it again for themselves in summers to come.-Catherine T. Quattlebaum, Bartram Trail Regional Library System, Washington, GA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
LaMarche (Little Oh, 1997) builds on childhood memories for this magical tale of artistic awakening. Young Nicky's resentment at having to spend all summer out in the country with Grandma changes to wonder when he finds a raft on the nearby river—a raft that is not only decorated with mysterious animal portraits, but seems, somehow, to attract wildlife. The author depicts his spectacled youngster floating through soft focus but exquisitely realistic natural scenes, sometimes alone, sometimes with Grandma, accompanied by flights of accurately rendered songbirds and other forest or river creatures seemingly as curious about—and as unafraid of him as he of them. At summer's end, he paints a picture of his own on the raft, after rescuing a fawn trapped on a muddy bank, and admits that he's become, like Grandma, a "river rat." The text's dreamy pace reflects both the river's gently rippling serenity and Nicky's deepening appreciation for the natural marvels he witnesses. It's an eyefilling, and soulfilling, idyll. (Picture book. 911)
School Library Joumal
“This dazzling picture book is an artistic triumph.”
The Horn Book
“The luminous illustrations evoke a magical aura.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780613951265
  • Publisher: San Val, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/1/2002
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Sales rank: 950,811

Meet the Author

Jim LaMarche wrote and illustrated The Raft. He also illustrated Little Oh and The Rainbabies, both by Laura Krauss Melmed. He lives in Santa Cruz, California. In His Own Words...

"It's funny how things turn out. I wasn't one of those kids with a clear vision of the future, the ones who know at age five that they will be writers or doctors or artists. I liked to draw, but then, so did most of the kids I knew, and growing up to be an artist never really occurred to me. What I did want to be, in order of preference, was a magician, Davy Crockett, a doctor, a priest (until I found out they couldn't get married), and a downhill ski racer.

"But I always loved to make things, and once I got going on a project I loved, I stuck with it. Once, when I was five or six, I cut a thousand cloth feathers out of an old sheet, which I then attempted to glue to my bony little body. I was sure I could have flown off the back porch if I'd just had a better glue. Another time I dug up some smooth blue-gray clay from the field behind our house, then molded it into an entire zoo, dried the animals in the sun, and painted them as realistically as I could. I made a grotto out of cement, a shoe box, and my fossil collection. I made moccasins out of an old deerhide I found in the basement.

"I grew up in the little Wisconsin town of Kewaskum, the soul of which was the Milwaukee River. In the summer we rafted on it and swam in it. In the winter we skated on it, sometimes traveling miles upriver. In the spring and fall my dad took us on long canoe trips, silently sneaking up on deer, heron, and fields of a thousand Canada geese. And almost all year long we fished for bullheads and northerns from the dam.

"I began college at the University of Wisconsin as a biology major, but somewhere along the line—I'm not sure when or even why—I switched to art, and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in art. I still had no idea of becoming a professional artist, however. In the meantime, I joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) and moved to Bismarck, North Dakota, to work with United Tribes of North Dakota creating school curriculum materials. It was a great job. Because there were only a few of us, I was able to try my hand at a little of everything: writing, graphic design, photography, and illustration. It was then that I slowly realized that it might be possible for me to make a living at art. I moved to California, and in the evenings-after working all day as a carpenter's assistant—I put together a portfolio.

"Twenty years later, I'm still here, living in Santa Cruz with my wife, Toni, and our three sons, Mario, Jean-Paul, and Dominic. The Pacific Ocean is only a few blocks away, and the scenery is very different from that of the Midwest, but somehow Kewaskum and the Milwaukee River show up in almost everything I draw. They provided the details of setting for The Rainbabies, Carousel, and Grandmother's Pigeon, and they are the setting for the book I'm working on now, my own story about the magic of a raft.

"I feel very lucky to have ended up as an illustrator of children's books. And maybe that isn't so different from my childhood dream of being a magician after all. Starting with a clean sheet of paper and with nothing up my sleeves, I get to create something that was never there before."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2012

    I have had this book for a few years now and its just wondeful t

    I have had this book for a few years now and its just wondeful to read. Just an inspiration about finding joy in the things we take for granted. My kids love the story and ask to read it often.

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  • Posted September 17, 2010

    Proven to be Inspiring!!!!

    I checked this book out at our local library to read to my four year old son Ethan. The little boy on the cover reminded me of him amongst all the animals and it had an adventurist feel to it. I read it to him one afternoon and when we finished he said, "Mama, let's play this book". Meaning build a raft out of paper and draw animals on it,set up a cabin out of lincoln Logs,get out all of his little plastic animals and a little guy that acted as the boy Nicki from the book. Thank you to the author for writing such a sweet and inspiring book. We love it and are going to order our own copy to add to our home library for our two boys.

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  • Posted January 16, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Beautifully Illustrated Book Cherished by Children of All Ages

    Jim LaMarche has woven a sweet special story about a young boy's summer on the river. One day at a time, the boy discovers himself and the joys of life on the river. The story flows as gently as summertime and the river itself. The Raft if a beautifully illustrated treasure, and will be cherished by children (and adults) forever.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2003

    Two thumbs up from third graders!!!!

    I read this book to my third graders as we read books for the Georgia Children's Choice Book Awards. As a class, we voted on each book. This one won a unanimous 'two thumbs up' in our class!!! The students LOVED the way the author described each scene, and they commented that the pictures are worthy of a Caldecott Award. This is one book that I will add to my permanent classroom library.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2001

    Beautifully Illustrated and Beautifully Written

    I purchased this book for my 5 year old son as a bedtime story. It was mesmerizing! My son asked for me to read it again the minute we got to the end. It is a wonderful story about intergenerational relationships, and about the appreciation of nature. The illustrations are simply beautiful. I bought several more copies of this book to give as birthday presents because I wanted to share it so much with others. This book is a treasure.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2000


    I was introduced to this book during a work shop at the local University which I attend. We were able to look at 2000 Picture book releases and of the 200 or more titles that I examined, The Raft, was absolutely out-standing!! I hope others feel the same way! The soft, fuzzy lovable animals drew me in immediately, and being the mother of two boys, I related to Nicky's distress at being left with his Grandmother for the summer, fearing that dreaded word, BOREDOM! How surprised he was to discover the magical, peaceful world surrounding the river! Many of us in the workshop found ourselves there with him, or atleast wanting to be there! It is most touching to see the connection between the sketches by his grandmother at the beginning of the book, and those of Nicky toward the end of the book. I was touched by the friendship that developed between Nicky and his Grandmother during the course of the story and by the gradual maturity that Nicky is able to obtain. I was most touched by his kind and tender rescue of the fawn. This is truly a book about the comming of age and should be read and enjoyed by both boys and girls and men and women of all ages!

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