Guided by a river outside her bedroom window, the child in A River by Marc Martin embarks in a tiny silver boat that carries her on a budding adventure. The story begins in her bedroom, adorned with carefully drawn posters, knick-knacks and toys. As she travels downstream, the textures and scenery of each spread invite the reader to join in her journey of discovery. (It is worth noting, I think, that the gender of the main character in A River is never mentioned. My only deciding factor was the hairstyle, but that honestly means nothing. I like that Martin doesn’t limit the audience, and, whether intentionally or not, opens up the sense of wonder to everyone.)
Readers will no doubt end up spending more time carefully looking at the images than reading the words. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. The adventure in this book doesn’t exist just in the writing or just in the illustrations—but in the combination of the two. I found myself running my hands over the pages, wanting to feel each object.
Martin uses cool blues and quiet greens that blend softly together. The color palette is natural, and while objects are defined, there aren’t harsh lines to separate one concept from another. In my favorite section, animals are seen only as tiny eyes in a nighttime jungle…until you look a little bit closer. You won’t find bright flashes of color directing your attention, but that kind of device is not necessary.
A River introduces the concept of interconnectedness; the same river outside your window could carry you to faraway places: under distant bridges, beside factories with plumes of smoke rising into the sky, beyond fields, through a jungle and eventually to the ocean—but only if you dare to go. Even if it’s just in your imagination.
A River by Marc Martin (Chronicle Books | 9781452154237 | March 7, 2017)