After Cari’s Dad’s sudden death after an accident on his bike, Mum decides to move to the countryside and set up a café on a lovely riverbank. Cari feels that it is very much Mum’s dream, and misses her Dad and their old life in the city, but helps, reluctantly, in the café. It is a great success, until the river overflows, washes away their tables and chairs, and makes a dreadful mess on the ground floor of their house. They are both in great distress the next day, and Cari misses Dad so much that she puts on his red jumper and picks up his camera, a professional model. Looking at her Mum, weeping, through the lens makes her see Mum in a different way, as a woman, and she starts taking photos of wildlife and gets interested. Friends from the local wildlife reserve help restore the café, and persuade Mum not to give up- what they need is beavers to reduce the power of the river. Local landowners are resistant, as they think the beavers would escape, but Cari gets stuck in, and, with her friend, Alfie, produces a project that helps to change minds of influential councillors when it goes on display. The beaver project is passed, Gracie and Harold arrive, and settle in well. They have delightful beaver babies, and Cari’s photos of them, made into postcards, sell well in the café. The next time there is a flood, although Cari and Mum are better prepared, the water doesn’t come so far up the garden, and the song of the river is no longer scary. Cari has made friends, found a new hobby and finally feels happy.
Gill Lewis always excels when writing about animals and wildlife, and this Barrington Stoke story will make her story accessible to readers who might struggle with a longer book. There is, of course, a message about working with wildlife to reduce the damage we have done, and improve the natural world. Zanna Goldhawk’s drawings at the bottom of every page help to break up the text, and the cover is lovely.