Friday 17 June 2016

On the River by Roland Harvey (Allen & Unwin) HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 9781760112455

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

With a sub-title, ‘Come with me from the mountains to the sea’, this picture book for children aged 5 to 10 years, is another offering from talented Australian Harvey who has already produced the bestselling At the Beach series which also include On the Farm and In the City – now seven hardback titles.

This latest book’s fly pages are filled with valuable information showing maps of Victoria and surrounding states, with place locations and detailed labelling and short stories relating to them. For instance, the entry for Jeralderie (Victoria) says, ‘Nothing to do with the Murray except that New Kelly crossed it all the way here to rob the town. Also the birthplace of Rosalie Ham, author of The Dressmaker, a novel and major film.’ There are easily hours of reading and site-finding on these opening pages before one even reads the rest of the book!

A talented line and light watercolour wash illustrator, Harvey has cleverly ‘hidden’ himself in each of the pages that follow. The story starts with a four paragraphs of text which locate the story at the headwaters of the Murray River where ‘this story begins.’ The headway of the river is at a place called Cowombat Flat. The reader then follows the Murray with stories told of events which happened at various down-river sites. Here’s where you’ll read of Banjo Paterson as travellers move eventually into Lake Hume (which holds six times as much water as Sydney Harbour). All of Harvey’s pages are filled with detailed illustrations showing people, animals, boats (such as paddle-steamers and house-boats), and more as the Murray is explored. Finally, after many kilometres, the 'river's waters open to the sea.'

There is so much to read here, both in words and visuals, that this is a book which will reward (adults and children) the reading countless hours of learning and enjoyment. Highly recommended.

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