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River Friendly, River Wild
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On TV we watch our city where people navigate the river-streets in any way they can.... "Look." Max points. "it's Sarah's house." All I see is roof. In searing personal poems, Jane Kurtz explores what it's like to struggle through a flood and pull your life together afterward. Inspired by Kurtz's own flood experience, this tale is realistic and unforgettable. Not just a moving story of one girl's courage, "River Friendly, River Wild" is a tribute to everyone who's ever faced great loss.
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"The river wiggled/ like a fat brown thread/ along the flat quilt of the Red River Valley," begins this detailed, powerful cycle of poems describing how a girl and her family--like Kurtz (I'm Sorry, Almira Ann) herself--survived the disastrous 1997 Red River flood (near Grand Forks, N.D.). When "spring creeps into the city/ one toe at a time," a surprise April blizzard hits; soon, its fast-melting snow makes "the river wild." Moving to a shelter for what they anticipate will be only a few days, the narrator and her family leave their cat at home with plenty of food. A poem titled "Ocean of Feelings" sparely chronicles the girl, imagining the cat "in our island house," watching TV with her family in a "borrowed" home and seeing city buildings burn. Brennan's (Let's Go to the Petting Zoo with Jungle Jack) paintings are sophisticated and artistically rendered, but they are also restrained to the point where they might distance readers. Characters are more frequently seen from the back or dwarfed within a panorama than frontally; their expressions are often obscured. There are exceptions: a painting of the burning buildings when "fire tongues lick the sky" and the illustration of headlights fleeing on a dark street amplify the emotional intensity of the book. Ages 4-8. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Gr 2-5-This collection of poems tells of a child's experiences during a flood that sweeps through her town, forcing families to evacuate. The unnamed girl describes the creeping water, the hard work of making sandbags, the wrench of being forced to leave her beloved cat, and the crowded shelter where they watch the devastation on TV. While her Mom spends the next few weeks making "-lists/of everything she might have lost," the child worries about her pet. When they can finally return to the town, they drive past piles of sodden belongings and houses made dangerous by flood damage. To the child, the missing animal represents all she has lost, just as the unexpected finding of three intact glass Christmas tree angels represents survival to her mother, and foreshadows the eventual return of Kiwi, who has been rescued by a neighbor. The illustrations, done in oils overlaid with layers of oil glazes, are glowing and paradoxically warm, showing the devastation of the flood while managing to soften and mitigate its harshness. Portrayals of the family and the neighborhood emphasize closeness and working together, underlining the message of community and cooperation. "This was one terrific neighborhood," says dad, and as the family prepares to "make new memories" and stick together "wherever in the whole world we are," the words overlaid on a palely drawn but identifiable glass angel reassure readers that despite natural disasters, families can survive.-Marian Drabkin, Richmond Public Library, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

"Powerful...an evocative look at recovery from personal loss." -- Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books "Offer[s] a clear sense of what it's like to live through a flood" -- Horn Book "A book about the nature of home, community, and picking up the pieces." -- Booklist "The illustrations are glowing. Portrayals of the family and the neighborhood emphasize closeness and working together, underlining the message of community and cooperation." -- School Library Journal

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