The Raft

The Raft

by Jim LaMarche

Paperback(Reprint)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780064438568
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/28/2002
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 40
Sales rank: 72,921
Product dimensions: 11.00(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.09(d)
Lexile: AD540L (what's this?)
Age Range: 4 - 8 Years

About 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."


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."

Customer Reviews

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Raft 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
wturnbull06 on LibraryThing 6 months ago
This book is a good example of realalistic fiction because it tells about a boy who is forced to spend the summer with his grandma and he really doesn¿t want to but while he is there he discover that he really enjoys it there and you have to make the best of situation. Media: colored pencil
Jpeshke on LibraryThing 6 months ago
This is a beautifully written book about a boy who spends the summer with his funky grandmother. Nicky learns to to love a raft that takes him along a river and shows him the beauty of the nature and animals that surround him. A great read aloud!
HomeSchoolBookReview More than 1 year ago
Nicky is going to be staying the whole summer with his grandmother who lives beside a river in the northern Wisconsin woods because his dad has to spend all his time working at a plant. The boy just knows that he is going to be bored. There are no kids around to play with, and Grandma doesn’t even own a television. But she does have chores for Nicky to do, including fishing for supper, which is the worst chore ever. However, one afternoon, while Nicky is trying to catch their dinner, a raft drifts down the river towards him. He is able to stop it and tie it up to the dock. Grandma lets him play on the raft and even sleep in a tent on it when the summer nights are too hot to stay indoors. Sometimes she goes swimming with him off the raft. Every day Nicky rushes through his chores to get to the raft. During his summer adventures on the river, he sees foxes, a huge buck, a great blue heron, otters, and raccoons. But from where did the raft come? To whom does it belong? And on the last day of his stay, when he sees a fawn which is trying to cross the water and gets stuck in the mud, is there anything that he can do to help? This picture book, which was recommended to me back in 2003, was inspired in part by the author’s own childhood. A note by LaMarche, the illustrator of A Story for Bear and The Elves and the Shoemaker, describes the similarities between his own youth and that of Nicky. The Raft is a lovely, imaginative story about appreciating the simple, natural joys of the world accompanied by gorgeous pastel pictures of a wonderful summer on the river. Some over-protective killjoys might feel that what Grandma lets Nicky do is unsafe, but I think that it is nice to see how she quietly allows him to discover for himself the wonders of river life without being pushy. Kids can just relax with a slow, leisurely read about boy visiting his grandmother for the summer and experiencing excitement on the river while enjoying his encounters with the wildlife.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
GraceAG More than 1 year ago
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.
msbecky More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!