On the river by Roland Harvey

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2016. ISBN 9781760112455
(Age: 8-80) Highly recommended. Roland Harvey's books celebrate the Australian landscape and lifestyle from the Top End, to the city and the bush. In his new picture book On the River the unique watercolour and ink illustrations combine with his simple text, poems, letters and informative descriptions to showcase the many facets of the Murray-Darling Basin.
Roland the adventurer sets out with his pelican companion and navigates the river system from high in the Snowy Mountains down to the Murray Mouth. Each double page spread is visually engaging, with so many things to investigate those small humourous scenes - that display Harvey's unique insight into everyday life. He shows his love for sports, recreation, fishing and family fun drawn from childhood trips and family holidays along the river. There is something for the whole family to spot, from lost bathers, extreme ironing, the dangers of shooting the rapids, water-skiing etiquette, quizzical animals - the migrating Bogong moth's backpack, to trout fishing tips and riverboat carnivals.
From the detailed maps of the Murray-Darling Basin in the endpapers, Harvey engages his audience with the many facets of river life; historically from the aboriginal connections to place, the exploration, settlement, the timeline of transportation and the farming, fruit, cotton to the current issues of water entitlement and usage. The geographical features are painted in natural tones, using bird's eye views, cutaways and panoramas to show the different environments, with the array of flora and fauna and the recreational uses of this Murray-Darling Basin.
This is an excellent resource for Humanities teachers, in Years 3, 5 and 7 there is a focus on the Murray River for History and Geography. Roland Harvey's letter from Murray to Darling succinctly sums up the steps needed to improve river health and increase the water flow.
Teacher notes and downloadable activities are available.
Rhyllis Bignell