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River Boy


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About the Author

Tim Bowler has written seven novels for teenagers and is one of the most prominent authors currently writing for this age group. His first novel, Midget, established him as a thrilling new voice in young adult literature. His third novel, River Boy, won the prestigious Carnegie Medal, and his books have also won numerous other prizes. His most recent novels are Storm Catchers and the highly acclaimed Firmament. Mr. Bowler lives with his wife in Devon, England, and is a full-time writer.


Jess is 15 years old, the same age as her grandfather was when he lost both parents in a fire and moved away from his childhood home by the river. Now growing frail, his last wish is to return to the river and finish his last painting, entitled River Boy. Grandpa calls Jess his muse; she counts on him to cheer her on at her swim meets. As they commence their vacation, the unfinished painting troubles Jess, more so as she begins to sense a mysterious presence on the river. Then she begins to see the river boy himself, waiting for her, asking for her assistance in a special mission. The narrative builds too slowly, and some of the passages seem out of character or overblown (e.g., a few times Jess's parents mention that they feel they're neglecting her; Jess tells the river boy, "Stay a mystery a little longer. I can't take any more truth right now"). However, Bowler's (The Midget) 1998 Carnegie Medal winner succeeds in conveying the strong bond between Jess and her grandfather; as the novel unfolds, she realizes they have more in common than she'd ever imagined. Ages 12-up. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Gr 5-8-Emilia Fox's splendid reading of British author Tim Bowler's beautifully written book makes this a highly worthwhile addition to library collections. Part naturalistic meditation on death and loss, part mystical Twilight Zone-style adventure, River Boy tells of 15-year-old Jess who loves two things: swimming and her ornery yet compassionate artist grandfather. The story begins with the family preparing a visit to grandpa's boyhood home in the British countryside. Grandfather suffers from poor health and a bad heart, and most of the text deals with Jess preparing herself for his death. He works on a melancholy painting called "River Boy," but no matter how long Jess studies it she can't see the boy. The plot takes a strange turn when Jess encounters the actual River Boy, a wise being who may or may not be real. River Boy is a poetic, tender story that packs a tremendous punch at the end as the title character helps Jess achieve a deeper spiritual understanding. The grandfather is an unforgettable character, cranky yet lovable, tough yet vulnerable, and Fox's interpretation of his crackly voice is right on target. Although the narrative drags a bit in the middle when grandfather's talkative old childhood friend slows things down, patient listeners will be rewarded in the end. The production is crystal clear. Agood addition to units on death and loss.-Brian E. Wilson, Oak Lawn Public Library, IL Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

"The Horn Book Magazine" There is no question that the tightly scripted plot with its steadily building tension will keep readers spellbound to the end.
Susan Cooper, Newbery Medal Winner, "The Grey King" A river is a natural metaphor for life and death, and Tim Bowler uses it to wonderful effect in this lovely, simple story. "River Boy" is written in quiet, non-poetic prose -- but it's a poem, as well as a very moving novel.
"The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books" Cormier fans...are likely to find this just their cup of astringent tea.
"School Library Journal" (starred review) This psychological thriller is immediately engaging...[and] suspenseful and fast-paced throughout.

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