BALLA, Trace Rivertime Allen & Unwin, 2014 78pp $24.99 ISBN 9781743316337 SCIS 1653104
In Rivertime, lively ten year old Clancy embarks on a canoeing trip along the Glenelg river with his uncle. During this fun-filled adventure he learns some invaluable lessons about making friends, overcoming difficulties and appreciating the beauty and diversity of the world. Removed from the distractions and hectic tempo of life, Clancy and his uncle become part of the stillness of ‘rivertime’. The unhurried pace of the journey captivates them as they stop to socialize with fellow travelers, watch the wildlife and observe the birds. As Clancy settles into the leisurely rhythm of life on the river he gradually discovers he is ‘part of everything’ and that he needs to ‘slow down, to really look, to listen and just to breathe.’
The cartoon format of the story with voice bubbles and funny asides makes for enjoyable reading. The pencil and pen drawings are amusing and capture the movement of the river and the activity of the people and creatures around it. The first person narrative and naive illustrations give the text the immediacy of reading the boy’s personal journal as he recounts the highlights of his adventure. There is plenty of interest on each page with countless sketches of wild birds and other wildlife with labels and information seamlessly blending with the text. The endpapers also feature wildlife with over 100 hand-labeled sketches of birds and animals encountered on the trip.
Clancy grows throughout the journey, beginning with complaints about the mosquitoes and wanting to go home to ultimately singing and dancing with joy at his achievements along the way. Rivertime conveys a timely message about the need to slow down and engage with the natural world and the vital role adults can play in introducing the young to the enduring pleasures of nature. The important environmental themes and positive tone, combined with an easy-to-read cartoon format, make it a wonderful book full of fun and learning for 8 to 12 year old readers.
reviewed by John Nolan