Posted by: Lizzie Ross | May 22, 2010

Take me to the river

The Secret River, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1955), Scribner’s, 53 pp.

This is a perfect little story. Times are hard, so the heroine, Calpurnia, and her dog, Buggyhorse, set off to find a secret river where she can catch fish for her father to sell, using pink paper roses as bait.

Like other Rawlings books (Cross Creek and The Yearling are probably the most famous), this one is set in Florida, before Disney and beach developments have altered the wild landscape. Panthers, owls, bears, cyprus trees, frogs and catfish populate the dark forest that Calpurnia wanders through, only a little frightened as evening comes on.

Rawlings evokes a world made mystical by a child’s innocent expectations. Modern readers (and publishers) may think it too long for a picture book, but the many illustrations here (by Leonard Weisgard, and accounting easily for one-third of the book’s contents) add to the story without overpowering it.

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