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Letting Swift River Go
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The bittersweet story of Quabbin Reservoir, made by flooding a valley--and several towns--in central Massachusetts between 1927 and 1946. Yolen's poetic narration, in the voice of a woman who was six years old when her family learned they would have to give up their home, recalls the tranquillity of a rural community where children fished in the river and picnicked in the graveyard. Then, ``it was voted in Boston to drown our towns that the people in the city might drink." Graves are moved, trees cut, homes bulldozed, and the river dammed to cover the little towns and create a new, quite beautiful landscape. Cooney's luminous, exquisitely designed watercolours, in tenderly glowing colours, focus on carefully selected details, like loving memories that retain only the most significant particulars. In the last scenes, the narrator and her father revisit the scene in a rowboat, pointing out underwater landmarks and finally, looking ``down into the darkening deep," letting them go. A lovely book about reconciling necessary change with the enduring value of what is lost. (Picture book. 4+) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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About the Author

Jane Yolen is the author of a great number of books for young readers, including How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight. Among her many awards are a Caldecott Medal, a Caldecott Honor, two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Medals, and the World Fantasy Award. She is also a poet and teacher of writing and literature.

Reviews

Like Virginia Lee Burton's The Little House and the Provensens' Shaker Lane , this felicitous marriage of text and art portrays the impact of modernization on one community. Yolen's gently poetic text tells how the young Sally Jane witnesses the forming of the Quabbin Reservoir in western Massachusetts and, thereby, the unavoidable drowning of her Swift River valley town. Gradually the streets she traveled and the homes she played in are covered by water for the hungry city's (Boston's) needs. Since young readers caring about Sally Jane will see this plight through her eyes, they are sure to grasp the plot's historical relevance. But the author is telling more than a personal or even a regional story here. Sally Jane's mother's words at the book's end, recalled when the girl and her father are in a boat on the now-filled reservoir--``You have to let them go, Sally Jane''--speak wisely to all of us about our pasts. (These words touchingly echo the mother's earlier admonition regarding trapped fireflies.) Despite the somewhat uninspired jacket painting, Cooney's charmingly detailed, childlike and colorful art is the perfect choice for this New England tale. Children will be captivated by her perspective of earlier days, when kids played mumblety-pegsic one word per Web;letsmake an exception--itlooks too odd/rl and walked to school on scenic country roads. A stirring and resonant book. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

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