Here’s another exquisitely beautiful book in translation from 2021 that nearly missed my radar. Of course it’s published by Enchanted Lion.
You might think you know what a river is: a strip of water that flows from a source(s) to a delta, whether the mouth of the delta is on the ocean like the Mighty Mississippi or inland like the Okavango. But a river is so much more.
The book opens with a child and grandmother busy on the banks of a river. The child is collecting flowers to make a wreath, and the grandmother is embroidering a tablecloth. (Take a peek under the book jacket for a little surprise.)
The child asks, “River, who are you? Grandma, what is a river?”
The question leads to many answers, the first being, “The river is a thread…”
“It embroiders our world with beautiful patterns.
It connects people and places, past and present.
It stitches stories together.”
Each spread contains either two or three layers of text. The first is a direct answer. The river is a thread, a journey, a home, refreshment, a name, a meeting place, a mystery, history, a smell, depth, energy, a reflection, a connection, and a flow.
The second layer is often a poetic response, as shown above, or combined with a third layer that expands on the direct answer with expository details, most written lyrically, with illustrations highlighting details and additional callouts.
This structure appeals to a broad age range of children, allowing for information to be absorbed visually and/or through the text.
Some spreads contain quite a bit of information, in addition to the lyrical text and gorgeous, intricate illustrations.
The book ends with a final question: Is the story of a river ever finished?
What do you think the answer is?
And then the answer is illustrated metaphorically when the child releases the wreath on the river and lets the current carry it away.
This meditation on rivers gives a child a chance to think deeply about that strip of running water they may pass by ever day. It may lead to questions: Where does the river come from and where does it go? What’s around the next bend? Where does its name come from? What animals may drink from the river, live on the river, find food in the river? How has the river been used in the past and today? Is there a river festival nearby? Children’s curiosity can be endless. And that’s a very good thing. Because books like this one feed that curiosity while offering up a few answers as well.
Find out the names of your local rivers, if you don’t already know them. What is the origin of the name? Where does the river originate? Where is its delta or mouth? Draw a map of local rivers in relation to where you live. Trace from a printed map, if needed. Find pictures of animals that live in or near the rivers, and add them to your map. Find out about the history of your river(s). What is it known or used for? In what ways does your community enjoy the river?
Write haiku poems about a river, using your five senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, sound. Here’s a short Youtube tutorial on writing haiku with examples. Here are some examples of haiku poems about rivers.
Title: What Is a River?
Author/Illustrator: Monika Vaicenavičienė
Publisher: Enchanted Lion, 2021
Ages: Elementary school
Themes: rivers, history, nature
For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.