A River is a magnificent, meditative new picture book by Marc Martin, an Australian artist, illustrator and bookmaker. Filled with pattern and more patterns and intricate details, A River follows the rich imagination of the young protagonist.
Sitting at her desk drawing, a girl (in a room filled with all the things she will go on to imagine outside her window) says she can see a river out her window, "stretching into the distance in both directions." She imagines herself, "floating along the river, swept away in a silver boat toward the horizon. Where will it take me?"
Flowing through the city, she passes an "endless stream of busyness," and on beside "factories with their machines grinding and plumes of smoke rising into the sky." Not exactly where I expected to go on this journey of the imagination, but it makes the book more meaningful and memorable. The city fades and the river "slides into the hills and valleys." For such a simple story, Martin's writing is spare but well chosen, his words are as evocative and immersive as his illustrations.
The girl and her silver boat continue to flow down the river, over a waterfall and through a jungle until finally, the river meets the sea and "the air smells of salt and seaweed." A storm blows up on the ocean and the girl is returned to her room, looking out her window again where she thinks she can see, "my silver boat floating in the moonlight, drifting past" her window once more, the page almost entirely black. When we see the girl in her room again, it is night and a desk lamp shows that her illustration has flowed out to the edges of the paper.