Jim Dewar (text) Anil Tortop (illus.) River Riddle Scholastic, 1 August 2015, 24 pp., $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760150518
This is a fun, rhyming, illustrated story of the river riddle that I remember puzzling over as a child at school. A boy with a bale of hay, a sheep and a fox need to cross the river in a boat built for two. How they get to the market on the other side all in one piece, without something being sacrificed for lunch, is the focus of the story.
Tortop’s bold and colourful digital illustrations magnify the humour of Dewar’s flawless rhyming verse. The judicious use of white space and arrangement of story elements on the page and across pages heightens the reader’s sense of curiosity, and allows room for children to predict the outcome – because we all know the joy in a riddle is trying to work it out yourself!
“As Dolly thinks: ‘That hay’s for me!’
And Frank thinks: ‘Dolly’s mine for tea!’
Young Jack does lots of thinking too
And comes up with a plan…can you?”
The personalities that Dewar and Tortop have given the characters (Dolly the sheep, Frank the Fox and Jack the boy) in this age-old riddle make it shine. It’s one for reading and laughing over again and again.
reviewed by Debra Tidball