Sally Morgan (text) and Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr (illustrator), The River, Magabala Books, August 2021, 32 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781922613028
I love the river near my home.
I look with my eyes,
I listen with my ears,
I learn about the life of the river
So writes Sally Morgan in this most beautiful book about the life of a river as a home to animals who are introduced in the part of the river they love best.
In this book, we are encouraged to look and to listen; get to know each fascinating creature by the sounds that identify their uniqueness. This is a gentle journey. There are no loud people noises or intrusions to this very special place. If we are quiet, the river will reveal its secrets.
There are no superfluous words in The River. Nothing is padded out or over-explained. The simplicity and rhythm that Sally Morgan has carefully created draws us into this place. But the words are not alone in their resonance about the wonder of The River. The brilliant illustrations of John Warrkatja Malibirr give the sparse words a huge presence with his magnificent renditions of each animal in its habitat. With vibrant blue backgrounds and an extremely restricted colour palette, John Warrkatja Maibirr fills each page with masterful renditions of the river’s family.
It is almost impossible to state the strength of cleverness and the beauty of the visual appeal of this book. I fell in love with it from the moment I took it from the post-pack and glimpsed its cover with its bold depiction of a jumping river fish. When I noticed the author was Sally Morgan, I knew this was going to be an exceptional book for young children. Of course, The River is a remarkable book for everyone – from toddlers to grannies.
Reviewed by Jennifer Mors