Review Blog

Jun 29 2016

On the river by Roland Harvey

cover image

Allen & Unwin, 2016. ISBN 9781760112455
(Age: All) Highly recommended. River Murray. Conservation. Humour. Each year as the snow melts in the Snowy Mountains of eastern Australia, small tributaries join other small streams, bubbling together down the mountains until joining to become the Murray River. Roland Harvey and his pelican friend traverse the river from its source to the sea in South Australia, and along the way inform the readers about the flora and fauna, man's uses of the river, the craft which sail on her, the people and towns which live on the banks, the industries, irrigation, locks and weirs. Sometimes the view is beneath the water, sometimes we are shown the river from the bank, sometimes a bird's eye view is given, but whatever perspective is shown, the pages are filled with information.
I love the double page spread showing the bottom of the river: a quiet wetland, where fish swim undisturbed, a Murray Cod hides in a tree root, some birds dart for a feed while a fisherman sets up on the bank and a small canoe winds its way between the trees. Along the bottom of the page some of the things you might find on the page are given with their names, urging the reader to find them. Over the page is the spectacular Echuca Wharf, built to still be used at times of flood, and we see more examples of human activity on the river, with paddleboats, canoes, power boats, tinnies and houseboats cluttering the pages. The endpapers give a view of the river from its source to the sea, and invite readers to read every word as they follow its journey.
Small hints are given along the way of the river's overuse, of its degradation, particularly in the pages about the Darling River joining the Murray. And some text is devoted to the Aboriginal use of the river, its history and some less well known stories. All of this is told alongside Harvey's very recognisable drawings, particularly the people as they go about their lives along the river, inviting all eyes to peer into the world presented, and marvel at how the river and its flora and fauna has survived. The book is a marvelous addition to the range of books promoting the conservation of this river inviting everyone to be more aware of its important place in our world.
Fran Knight

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