Review Blog

Nov 08 2015

The River and the Book by Alison Croggon

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Walker Books, 2015. ISBN 9781925081725
(Ages 12+) Recommended. The River and The Book has been acknowledged by Amnesty International for addressing human rights abuse in cultural, and economic terms. Poetically written this book will be an asset to for its literary and thematic content. Simbala is the Keeper of the Book and as the women in her family before her is an important member of the village in which she lives. People come to consult the Book for many reasons but Sim is the only one who can touch it or read its messages. The book contains the history and soul of the village, and like the oracle has the answers to all the villager's questions.
The River is the life blood of the village bringing life and riches as well as providing transport. Droughts cause the river to fail but when developers upstream reduce the flow and begin polluting the River, neighbouring villages are turned against each other. When consulted the Book offers a one word answer to the problem, 'Change.' However change arrives in the unexpected form of Jane Watson, a foreigner intent on writing about the river people, who befriends Sim but betrays her trust, steals the Book and disappears.
Desperate to return the book to its rightful place Sim travels down the River in search of the thief, vowing to only to return when she has recovered the treasure. Along the way she meets a variety of companions, and eventually settles in the city, still searching for Jane. She finally discovers Jane is working at the University and has published a book highlighting the plight of the River and the people who rely on it for their living.
Why someone would assume they had the right to take a community's most precious property is foremost in Sim's mind and could be a stimulus for deep discussion between students in an exploration of human rights and ethics. The divide between cultures and the assumed rights of westerners is foremost but the book is also an introduction to discussions surrounding development, pollution and change.
Sue Keane

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