The River and the Book
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The River and the Book

Alison Croggon (Author), Katie Harnett (Illustrator)

Winner of the Environment Award for Children’s Literature (Fiction) 2016

From the internationally bestselling author of The Books of Pellinor comes a powerful story about the exploitation of indigenous people by the First World.

In Simbala’s village they have two treasures: the River, which is their road and their god; and the Book, which is their history, their oracle and their soul. Simbala is a Keeper of the Book, the latest in a long line of women who can use it to find answers to the villagers' questions. As developers begin to poison the River on which the villagers rely, the Book predicts change. But this does not come in the form that they expect; it is the sympathetic Westerner that comes to the village who inflicts the greatest damage of all.

Review

Not only did this book appeal to me from the get go with its beautiful cover, but the fact that it is endorsed by Amnesty International as a book that promotes awareness of human rights issues meant it was made for me to read and I’m thrilled it is book of the month.

Set in a small village, Simbala and her fellow villagers rely on two things for their survival: the river, which runs through the village, and the Book, an oracle of sorts that guides the villagers with answers to everyone’s individual questions. Simbala was born to become a Keeper of the Book, a job passed down through generations. But as big corporations move in and start to use the river to dispose of their chemicals, the villagers start to worry about the impact such polluting will have on their livelihoods. However, it’s not until a foreigner arrives, a journalist working on a story to help bring awareness to their plight, that the villagers are exposed to the biggest betrayal of all.

This novel does exactly what the endorsement from Amnesty International leads you to expect. When corporations pollute land or contaminate seed supplies, the exploitation of the communities affected has only just begun. Human beings can no longer ignore these atrocities, and bringing this awareness to YA readers in the form of such a beautiful piece of literature is very exciting. Highly recommended for readers 13 and up.


Katherine Dretzke is a bookseller at Readings Hawthorn.

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