The River by Tom Percival

Tom Percival is quickly becoming one of the best story tellers working right now. He impressed many with The Invisible, his most personal story to date, and hasn’t disappointed by following up with The River.

Rowan loves the river. He embraces his life outdoors and basks in the glorious river and the beauty it shares. It is almost like the river speaks to him; reflects his soul. And what a lovely, kind soul Rowan has.

Sadly, like a river, life has twists and turns and surges unexpectedly. This is what happens to Rowan. His life feels empty at the loss he suffers. He feels helpless, cold, numb, and the river mirrors his heart. It freezes over through the seasons until Rowan’s heart heals with the help of a cause that comes from a place of kindness.


As a picture book fan, I adore it when authors use the medium to explore such mature themes on a level that children can understand – Tom Percival does that so well here. His illustrations are both cartoony with the humans to appeal to children and beautiful in the way they present nature. The double page spreads are truly brilliant.

Now for the teacher bit. Any story that deals with the mature themes of love and loss are a must for the classroom. Many children will experience grief in some form and helping them understand these feelings is something this book does very sensitively. I also think it would be great to use in Y5 and 6 to introduce them to metaphors. The clear link between the boy’s feelings and the river is an ideal way to develop an understanding of what can be a tricky concept.

A tale of love, loss and hope – a joy to share with children.

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