Less effective than Atwell's similarly themed Barn, this eco-fable features well-wrought paintings but serves up clich s. "In the beginning there was the river. Trees grew. Fish grew big. And one by one, the animals came to drink the water," opens the narrative, often stilted in its emulation of a biblical tone. A person arrives in a canoe--"He knew the river was good," reads text opposite a painting of a Native American hunter, his head bowed in acknowledgment of a fine sunset. Yet "the first people had to leave to find peace" once white settlers appeared. Balancing elements of Impressionism and folk art, Atwell's appealing paintings reveal both the river and sky darkening as factory stacks spew smoke into the air, motorcyclists speed along the riverbank and trash bobs in the water ("The animals no longer came to drink. The fish disappeared. There were too many needs"). Then, "people remembered how it had been," and tear down some of the factories and plant trees because they (cryptically) "wanted to share." The message is simplistic and the delivery predictable; the tug-of-war between man and nature is rendered more credibly in Atwell's artwork than in her words. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"This eco-fable features well-wrought paintings balancing elements of Impressionism and folk art," PW wrote. "But the tug-of-war between man and nature is rendered more credibly in the artwork than in the words." Ages 4-8. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
K-Gr 2-As in Barn (Houghton, 1996), Atwell presents a simple history of an American icon. This time she focuses her attentions on a generic river and its role as the lifeblood of a community. The third-person narrative keeps details to a bare minimum; it opens, "In the beginning there was the river," and continues with, "One morning a person appeared. He paddled down the river in a canoe. He knew the river was good. He returned with his family." The illustration makes it obvious that he is a Native American. His family and friends are forced to leave when "new people" arrive. Again, only the illustrations make it clear that they are European settlers. Eventually, population growth and industrialization cause pollution; the animals and fish disappear. "There were too many needs." Somehow, the people regain their senses and make environmental repairs that allow the river to rest and heal itself and a young woman paddles upstream in her canoe. "She saw that the river was good. She returned with her family." Finally, the story ends with "Life had returned to the river. The people had learned to share." The delightful folk-art paintings are appealing in their attention to detail and complement the tone of the text. This is, of course, an absolutely simplistic and optimistic take on the history of an American river, but it is not without its charm.-Alicia Eames, New York City Public Schools Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
In a series of folk-art paintings, Atwell (Barn, 1996) charts an American river's decline from unspoiled to trash-strewn, then its recovery due to the efforts of concerned people. Although readers may be thrown by the brief text's vagueness ("They changed the warehouses. They tore down some of the factories. They planted trees. They wanted to share"), the message comes through clearly in the striking riverine scenes, as bright skies and blue waters change to lowering clouds and gray dinginess, then back to idealized views of grassy approaches and families at play. (Picture book. 5-7)
"In the beginning there was the river" begins this purposeful, yet effective story of changes over time. The next spread shows the first person, a native American, to visit the river. Then more people arrive to fish and to trade. Soon colonists arrive, fight off the inhabitants, chop down trees, and build a town. Next steamboats, automobiles, and factories appear. Fish no longer live in the polluted waters. But people see their mistake, tear down factories, replant trees, and eventually life returns to the river. Illustrated with a series of folk-art paintings, this book makes its statement simply and clearly in words and pictures that even young children can understand. The less-detailed scenes are particularly haunting in their evocation of place. A good companion book for Atwell's Barn (1996), which dealt with changes in another American locale over two centuries. Booklist, ALA
"In a series of folk-art paintings, Atwell (Barn, 1996) charts an American river's decline from unspoiled to trash-strewn, then its recovery due to the efforts of concerned people. Although readers may be thrown by the brief text's vagueness (&'grave;They changed the warehouses. They tore down some of the factories. They planted trees. They wanted to share''), the message comes through clearly in the striking riverine scenes, as bright skies and blue waters change to lowering clouds and gray dinginess, then back to idealized views of grassy approaches and families at play." Kirkus Reviews