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Letting Swift River Go Paperback – September 1, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (September 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316968609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316968607
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 8.9 x 0.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Like Virginia Lee Burton's The Little House and the Provensens' Shaker Lane , this felicitous marriage of text and art portrays the impact of modernization on one community. Yolen's gently poetic text tells how the young Sally Jane witnesses the forming of the Quabbin Reservoir in western Massachusetts and, thereby, the unavoidable drowning of her Swift River valley town. Gradually the streets she traveled and the homes she played in are covered by water for the hungry city's (Boston's) needs. Since young readers caring about Sally Jane will see this plight through her eyes, they are sure to grasp the plot's historical relevance. But the author is telling more than a personal or even a regional story here. Sally Jane's mother's words at the book's end, recalled when the girl and her father are in a boat on the now-filled reservoir--"You have to let them go, Sally Jane"--speak wisely to all of us about our pasts. (These words touchingly echo the mother's earlier admonition regarding trapped fireflies.) Despite the somewhat uninspired jacket painting, Cooney's charmingly detailed, childlike and colorful art is the perfect choice for this New England tale. Children will be captivated by her perspective of earlier days, when kids played mumblety-pegsic and walked to school on scenic country roads. A stirring and resonant book. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

The bittersweet story of Quabbin Reservoir, made by flooding a valley--and several towns--in central Massachusetts between 1927 and 1946. Yolen's poetic narration, in the voice of a woman who was six years old when her family learned they would have to give up their home, recalls the tranquillity of a rural community where children fished in the river and picnicked in the graveyard. Then, ``it was voted in Boston to drown our towns that the people in the city might drink.'' Graves are moved, trees cut, homes bulldozed, and the river dammed to cover the little towns and create a new, quite beautiful landscape. Cooney's luminous, exquisitely designed watercolors, in tenderly glowing colors, focus on carefully selected details, like loving memories that retain only the most significant particulars. In the last scenes, the narrator and her father revisit the scene in a rowboat, pointing out underwater landmarks and finally, looking ``down into the darkening deep,'' letting them go. A lovely book about reconciling necessary change with the enduring value of what is lost. (Picture book. 4+) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is one of the best children's books I've read in a long time. The story of the building of the Quabbin Resevoir in western MA is not a wide told story, but it should be. This book is clearly written so children can understand what was happeneing. The illustrations are also wonderful and will keep the children engaged. If you're the grown up reader, don't count on getting through this with a dry eye. It's definatly a book for ALL ages. ~Sarah Aziz Mount Holyoke College Sophomore (age 19)
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Paul Maynard on July 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
Simply outstanding book which perfectly captures the unbearably devastating situation. The author writes with simplicity and heart, easy enough for children to comprehend but also with the intelligence for adults.

My family settled in the Swift River Valley and were raising their young children when Boston's attitude about "those people" destroyed their way of life. I grew up hearing stories about the life lost and, in most cases, never regained. The friendliness of neighbors, picnics and social events at the churches. Gram would know when it was time to start supper because she'd hear Grandpa's lumber truck shifting gears as it descended into the valley.

Imagine being a child (as were my uncles) and, not only losing your home, but watching everything you knew being demolished. And attending the very last community get-together where people cried and hearts were broken. The residents that Boston politicans and establishment so cruelly cast aside were forced to find homes in usually rural areas, and never again regained sense of support and community.

Readers of this important book should someday take it with them on a visit to the Quabbin, particularly when there is a dry spell and the water is low. From Route 202 walk the old dirt roads and see the foundations of homes long ago, and continue on down the road until it dips down into the water -- and look at more relics of the past through the clear Quabbin water.

Better yet, take a ride in a boat.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
The best thing about this book is its refusal to play games with your child's mind. Rejecting the shameless tear-jerking of so much media aimed at children, this book embraces the grand tradition of children's books that takes children seriously. This is a book about dealing with loss about about letting go, but also a book that makes the reader reflect on what is good about life. Warts and all, life is sweet. As a historian, I really appreciate that Yolen tries hard to show what her valley was like AND what it is like after the dam is built. Kids are frightened when they see orchards being ripped out for suburbs; this is a book about dealing with that kind of loss.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By mcHaiku on March 31, 2006
Format: Library Binding
Jane Yolen tells the story of a community 'drowned' by waters filling a new reservoir. The poetry of her telling somehow lessens the ache. You doubtless know of such a story - - of vast lakes covering YEARS OF FAMILY HISTORIES, and pre-history.

Barbara Cooney has created realistic scenes to accompany Yolen's words. Together, the story makes a lasting impression: children playing among gravestones, listening at night to the long mournful train whistles, and at sugaring-off tine "tasting the thin sweetness" of the syrup, all described with simple authenticity.

When Boston "decides" that a reservoir must be built to catch their water supply - - and after the many back-breaking steps are taken to denude the countryside - - the waters rise; "it took seven long years."

Much later, no longer a child, Sally Jane is in a rowboat, and her father strokes the oars, pointing out where buildings stood and where she played with friends. As darkness falls she hears her mother's voice from the past, "You have to let them go" . . . and she does.

Jane Yolen has shared the story of a past that continues on into the future with all its implications for protection of our water supply, and for preserving associations made even more precious by the intervening years. Reviewer mcHAIKU hopes everyone can feel the warmth of Barbara Cooney's sunlit country roads and the slower pace of life she paints for us. I wonder who in future years will be writing children's books about the damming of the upper Yangtze?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By G. H. Swain on April 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
A grandfather rows his boat and pauses to point out landmarks to his passenger, a granddaughter who is going to row at college. The landmarks are deep under the waters of Quabbin Reservoir in western Massachusetts, which drown the history of families - even pre-history?

It is difficult for the young woman to get beyond sentimental feelings of her own childhood and friends with whom she played on those hills and dirt roads. They had lived happy lives until big city politics intervened to disrupt the landscape - and lives. "Houses were moved, and cemeteries; probably some marriages drowned, also.

The grandfather gently guides young Sally Jane toward the personal need to 'let go' of the past, and then to consider a population's need for water - whether it be Quabbin Reservoir, Mass., or Lake Monroe Indiana, or Lake Mead in Arizona, Colorado & Nevada. Many lessons can be learned among generations. One can almost see the strengthening of character that results from such acceptance.
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