From School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-This sunny sequel to Kumak's House (2002) and Kumak's Fish (2004, both Alaska Northwest) centers on spring in a remote Alaskan village, when the ice on the frozen river cracks and breaks and jams up at a river bend, flooding the community. Kumak and his family climb onto their roof and keep the largest chunks of ice away with long poles, their dogs tied up in a boat nearby. Bania, who taught in an Inupiaq village, works the cadences of the story like the flowing waters of the river, with repetition of key phrases building the action. The illustrations are a pleasing wash of color against large swaths of white space that call to mind the vast openness of Alaska. A secondary story takes place in the pictures, in which the dogs have their own adventure after the rope holding their boat breaks. Despite a misleading subtitle, the story is less a tall tale than a lovingly depicted story of a people who live in harmony with nature; rather than raging against the river that sweeps away their oil drums, toys, net floats, and fish tubs, Kumak and his family know that "A river does what a river does."-Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Carroll County Public Library, MDα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kumak’s River. Iñupiat villagers cope with a flood in a cheery tale that’s not so much “Tall” as it is Wet. Watching the river ice break up after eight frozen months, papa Kumak comments to his family, “As sure as seagulls return in spring, that river will come to visit us today.” Indeed it does—as Kumak and his neighbors watch from the roofs of their stilt-based homes, the water rises behind a temporary jam to carry away the village’s oil drums, fish tubs, net floats and toys, as well as the boat into which Kumak has herded his motley pack of dogs. The river doesn’t “visit” long, though, and once the dam breaks up, everyone climbs down to help one another successfully recover their strayed goods and animals. The Alaskan author draws from her own experiences to tell the lightly patterned tale, and she illustrates it with bright watercolor scenes replete with frisky dogs and smiling people (the latter in modern dress). There is some brief drama, but it's less a tale of hardship or survival than a celebration of the season’s turn and an authentic glimpse of life in northwestern Alaska. A valuable, loving look at an often-overlooked culture. (afterword) (Picture book. 5-7). ---Kirkus Reviews 7-26-2012
”The story is told in spare yet rhythmic prose, with the repeated refrain of ""Just in time!"" adding structure. . . The line and watercolor art is jaunty and appealing, with teeming vignettes of people and stuff contrasting with the wide open skies and broad blue river. A float-ringed thumbnail ""window"" cleverly provides an ongoing dog-cam that follows the exploits of the drifting dogs as the family waits for the waters to subside. With a style that's suitable for reading alone or reading aloud one on one, this is an unusual adventure that will intrigue many young residents of the lower 48.”
---Deborah Stevenson, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Vol. 66. No. 2, October 2012