A River

a river cover

Author/IllustratorMarc Martin

Publisher: Penguin | Viking

Comments: I’m just going to come out and say it: I adore Marc Martin‘s work. I loved A Forest, people emailed me/tweeted me/texted me about The Curious Explorer’s Illustrated Guide to Exotic Animals, and I can’t stop running my fingers over the beautiful, tactile cover of A River.

Honestly, you really can judge a picture book by its cover. This lush, embossed cover is going to make A River jump off bookstore shelves and dive into library bags, and in my opinion is worth the investment Penguin have obviously put into it. (If like me you would hang Martin’s work on your walls, he has gorgeous limited edition prints for sale here. You’re welcome.)

A city-dwelling girl looks out her window and sees the river winding its way between skyscrapers. As she imagines herself floating along it, she takes readers on a journey through industrial areas and out into farmland, down waterfalls and deep into jungles, past mangroves and out into the wide open ocean.

The first person, present tense text is almost superfluous to the illustrations, making this a book that can be read with or without the words. I highly recommend this book for teaching visual literacy in lower-middle primary classrooms, and as such have provided LOTS of teaching tips. (If you need answers to any question prompts below, just leave a comment or tweet me…)

Definitely add this one to your collection.


Teacher Tips: This text is wonderful for exploring elements of visual literacy. Try discussing some of the following with your students:

  • Typography – look at the cover title. Why was this font selected? Why are the two words connected? What shapes are repeated/reflected? (Compare also with title page.) Where is the title placed on the page? Why?
  • Palette – discuss the colours used on the cover, the title page, and throughout. What emotions do these colours evoke? Which colour is dominant throughout the text? What effect does this have?
  • Directionality – which way does the river flow? How do you know? Why is it important that the river flows this way?
  • Framing – look at the framing on the first opening created by the window in the girl’s bedroom. What happens to the frame in the next opening? Why? What happens to the frame in subsequent openings? When does the frame reappear? How has it changed?
  • Endpapers – how do the two endpapers show passage of time? What other differences can you identify? (Discuss position of cat, blocks, drawing on the desk, position of the globe, direction of fish.) Where do elements from the endpapers appear in the text? What is salient in the final endpaper? Why? How is the boat illuminated? (Also, can you find a character from one of Marc Martin’s other books?)
  • Positioning – where are we positioned as readers? What effect does this have? (Are we looking AT the main character, or THROUGH her eyes, or a combination?)

MarcMartin_river - hills

*I received a review copy of A River courtesy of Penguin. No payment was received for review and all comments are based on my own professional opinion.

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