‘Dark brown is the river…’ Stevenson’s poem reflects onthe path of the river as it flows ‘away down the valley’ connecting children as they play. This is the theme that Grahame Baker-Smith brings to life in his lyrical picture book. We meet Isaac as he plays by a mountain pool; the rain falls and the water flows out of the pool to become a stream then a river. Isaac adds to the flow with his jar of water. The river joins the sea. Isaac watches and wonders where his water will go. But we do not stop; following the currents than run deep under the ocean we reach distant shores. The sun draws the seawater up to become rain which falls on Cassi’s village filling their pool. The water runs out to become a life giving stream and river and so back to the sea – and eventually to Isaac.
This is a gentle reflective narrative that would encourage thought and discussion. Baker-Smith’s prose does not pretend to be poetry, but takes on some of the flowing rhythms of the water. As the narrative describes the path of the river, the moods of the sea, we are made aware that water is not an ornament – it has uses, it is the home of many creatures, it is an element that brings life. The text may be compact; the illustrations are not. Expansive double page spreads overflowing with rich saturated colours draw the reader into the landscape. The palette is dark and lush, the water gleams against its background. It is water that subtly dominates every spread, lucent, transparent, in perpetual movement, still. From the moment we encounter the book, the rain falling down the covers, through the end papers with rain drops splashing into a pool to a stream tumbling downhill we are aware of water and the way it links us. It is Baker Smith’s skill that is the key to creating this world.
Thoughtful and visually rewarding this should be on every library shelf.