River Song

River Song

by Belinda Hollyer

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Jessye's tumultuous life flits between her grandmother and her mother. As she tries to make sense of her family past, she discovers secrets that lurk beneath the surface of all of their lives... A beautifully told story set in New Zealand.


Jessye's tumultuous life flits between her grandmother and her mother. As she tries to make sense of her family past, she discovers secrets that lurk beneath the surface of all of their lives... A beautifully told story set in New Zealand.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Pat Trattles
Jessye loves living along the river with her paternal grandmother, learning the Maori songs, and living a life steeped in the traditions of her Maori ancestors. Jessye's free spirited non-Maori mother hates the rural river and everything it stands for, preferring instead to live in the city where she has not yet put down roots but instead is constantly on the move in search of her rightful place in life. Most of the time, Jessye lives with her grandmother, but whenever her mother shows up to whisk her away, she goes willingly. This time, Jessye is reluctant at first to leave her grandmother, but agrees to give her mother another chance. At first, everything is fine. Her mother has found a job that she actually likes, and the people in the communal boarding house where she lives are fun to be around. Jessye enrolls in a new school, makes some good friends, and begins to feel at home with her mother in the big city. Then her mother meets Adrian, a handsome con-man who steals her heart and intends to steal Jessye's grandmother's land in order to finance a shady get-rich scheme. Jessye, knowing her mother is too smitten to see through Adrian's schemes, realizes it is up to her to protect her grandmother and her ancestral Maori land. A poignant coming of age story told in an engaging first person narrative, Jessye's story is sure to be a hit with readers everywhere. Reviewer: Pat Trattles
School Library Journal

Gr 4-7- Jessye loves living with Nana, her father's mother who teaches her the chants and songs she needs to know to understand her Maori heritage. She also likes her life with her flighty, city-dwelling non-Maori mother-until her mom finds a new boyfriend and begins to drink too much, leaving Jessye trapped in the complicated role of caregiver. While navigating the rocky and sometimes mysterious relationship between her mother and her grandmother, Jessye is determined to uncover some family secrets: Why will no one talk about her father? Is the Maori story about an angry river spirit true, and does it hold some clues to her father's disappearance? By the end of this coming-of-age story, Jessye's daring act of bravery assures her a place within her Maori family. She realizes that, while she will always love her mother and looks forward to visiting her during holidays, she belongs by the river with her father's family. This time, when she goes back to Nana, she does so knowing that she has made a difficult but correct choice. The natural-sounding first-person narrative draws readers into a story of a girl learning to make sense of all the strands that make up her life and heritage.-Ellen Fader, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

Kirkus Reviews
Jessye lives in one country-New Zealand-but two worlds. Some of the time she stays with her free-spirited but unreliable single mother, who frequently moves around, and the rest of the time she lives with her beloved paternal grandmother on their ancestral Maori land. Moving back and forth between her two families is never easy, but this time all seems to be going well. Her mother has a job and a home and seems cheerful, and Jessye enrolls in a new school and finds friends. But just as Jessye starts to relax, things take a turn for the worse: Her mother takes up with a confidence man and begins behaving erratically and drinking heavily. Torn between loving her mother and protecting her grandmother, Jessye realizes that she must rely on her own strength and intuition to help herself and her family move forward. Steeped in Maori folklore and culture, this unusual coming-of-age novel, narrated in Jessye's distinctive voice, provides a thoughtful depiction of a girl learning to think for herself. (Fiction. 10-12)

Product Details

Hachette Children's
Publication date:
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
File size:
768 KB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Belinda grew up in a small harbour town in New Zealand: a glorious place to be a child. She shared a pony with her sisters, and spent most of her time reading, riding, and playing on the beach at the bottom of their road. (Even now, tidal water still tugs at her imagination.) Career-wise, Belinda has enjoyed different combinations of children and books - as a teacher, a librarian, a book publisher, and now as an almost-full-time writer. She has lived in Beirut, and Melbourne, and on the south coast in England, and now she mostly divides her time between London and Key West (in Florida). Belinda lives in Primrose Hill, North London, with her partner, Bruce.

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