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Comment: Ex-library book with the usual markings and stickers. Tight binding with moderate shelf wear.
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The Secret River Hardcover – January 4, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 3–5—Rawlings penned what she called a "child's story" in 1947 to accompany paintings by Robert Camp. Found in her papers after her death, The Secret River was finally published in 1955; it posthumously received a 1956 Newbery Honor. Originally illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, the 55-page story followed young Calpurnia and her ever-constant puppy, Buggy-horse, on a self-determined expedition to "turn hard times into soft times." Spurred on by Mother Albirtha, a wise woman of the forest, the girl and her dog find a fish-filled river and, with the help of a red boat and the pink paper roses tied to Calpurnia's pigtails, bring in a giant catch and cleverly devise a way to get the fish back home. Now, Rawlings's story, somewhat trimmed to picture-book length, has a whole new aura. Illuminated by the Dillons' exquisite artwork, the tale accentuates the enchantment of Calpurnia's journey. Brilliantly composed images, where the young girl's face is at times superimposed over objects in the story or seemingly floats over the magical river, have a lustrous glow. Imagined in striking scenes, Calpurnia and Buggy-horse's encounters with an owl, a bear, and a panther effectively capture the Florida back country that Rawlings famously drew upon in her writings. Characters, well delineated throughout, pulse with life. Overriding the adventure is the determination and spirited effort of the child to help her family in need. The mix of reality and fantasy sits well in the economically troubled world of today and is sure to strike a chord with many young readers and their families.—Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA
(c) Copyright 2011.  Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Rawlings’ 1956 Newbery Honor title is newly illustrated here in the Dillons’ signature style, with glowing, full-page acrylic paintings and small freestanding images that capture the story’s magic realism from a child’s viewpoint. At the breakfast table, Calpurnia’s father says hard times have come, especially for poor people. Calpurnia does not feel poor, but her father has no fish to sell in his market. So with the advice of a wise soothsayer, Mother Albirtha, Calpurnia dares to venture out into a dark forest and follows her nose to find a secret river, where she catches fish and brings them home. Filled with pattern and texture, the images occasionally have a static quality. They are at their best in scenes of the brave child on her perilous journey, finding her way back in the dark, past an owl, a big black bear, and a crouching panther, until she returns to her parents’ loving embrace and feels the joy of saving her community. Preschool-Grade 3. --Hazel Rochman
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 720L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 56 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416911790
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416911791
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.5 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #212,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Carey Hagan on January 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I love it when I find truly admirable heroines for readers in elementary school. Calpurnia is such a heroine. Once she finds out her family [and the other people who live nearby] are going through hard times, she seeks out a wise woman, Mother Albirtha, who tells her about a secret river full of fish. Without giving away any spoilers, Calpurnia goes in search of this secret river and basically does what she needs to do, showing courage, grace, humor, inventiveness, and compassion. There are so many wonderful touches in this story, both in the plot line and in the amazing drawings by Leo and Diane Dillon. Calpurnia is determined and generous, but she's also real and funny. For example, she likes making up little poems, and she's attached to her pudgy dog, Buggy-horse. In my opinion, this book is about both generosity [in its physical forms] and generosity of spirit.
This would make for a great read-aloud classroom book for teachers or librarians [you'd need more than one session to finish it]. It has many elements from folktales and fairy tales in it, and it's also just a wonderful book to own. This one left me feeling awe-struck. I loved this wonderful book.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Aya Katz on November 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of my favorite children's books in English. It is lyrical, fun to read out loud, and yet it deals with important issues: poverty, hard times, the cycle of life, and even the business cycle. Unlike most children's books dealing with these issues, it doesn't soft pedal the hard facts. Life comes from life. If you want to eat, you have to be willing to take the life of another being, and nothing is for free, but people can still help each other, by trading one person's work for another's work product. Especially at Christmas time, when there are so many books that suggest we can get something for nothing, The Secret River would make a great gift for the child in your life.

The illustrations by Leonard Weisgard are well worth the price of the book. I suggest getting the old version instead of the new one.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Madigan McGillicuddy on March 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I am a huge, huge fan of Leo and Diane Dillon's artwork, so I was excited to see that they were releasing a new book this year. The text actually originates from Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings 1956 Newbery Honor winning book. I wasn't sure how I felt about the fact that the text is abridged... but then much like when Rachel Field's 1930 Newbery winner, Hitty: Her First Hundred Years was abridged by Rosemary Wells and Susan Jeffers amidst much controversy a few years ago, I figured, well, why not? If it brings a classic to a new generation of readers, that can't be a bad thing, right? While The Secret River is in a picture book format, it's roots as a chapter book are evident in wordy pages with expressive language appropriate for second to fifth grade readers.

"There is a dark forest far away in Florida," the story begins. Young Calpurnia lives there with her parents and pet dog named Buggy-horse.

"At breakfast Calpurnia's father said, 'Hard times have come to the forest.' She said, 'What are hard times?' 'It means that everything is hard, and especially for poor people. She felt the table, she laid her hand on Buggy-horse's hard back and it was true: Everything seemed harder than usual. She asked, 'Are we poor people? I don't feel poor."

Worried that her father won't be able to sell fish at the market, Calpurnia makes pretty pink paper roses to bring to Mother Albirtha, who advises her to go to a secret river. Sure enough, Calpurnia finds it, and catches an absurd bounty of fish. Traveling home, she is accosted by an owl, a bear and a panther who each demand their share of the fish.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By peppergirl on December 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is a work of art. I gasped at the illustrations. It was a pleasure to revisit this children's book: it's even more relevant today than ever. Universal messages.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Regina Clark on April 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Secret River" is the story of a poor Black family living in a remote rural area of south Florida during the depression of the 30's. The protagonist, a little girl about 10 to 12 years old, whose parents are struggling to make it through hard times. They do not soften the truth of their situation in answering their daughter's queries.

The little girl is undaunted and firmly believes that somehow, she will find a way to help her family and her neighbors as well. On her perilous journey to discover the Secret River, she encounters and braves terrifying beasts. Yet, her spirit never flags, and somehow, she succeeds beyond hers and everyone else's dreams.

This story is a mixture of realism and phantasy that blends seamlessly into a delightful almost believable fairy tale. The illustrations are breathtakingly gorgeous, masterful, absolutely thrilling.

This is an absorbing, moving story that can be enjoyed by young and old alike. A winning combination of imaginative writing and superbly wrought, haunting paintings.

I was fortunate in finding this hardcover gem of a book on Amazon.com at a very modest price.

Regina Clark
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