Maya Christina Gonzalez,
I Know the River Loves Me / Yo sé que el río me ama
Children’s Book Press, 2009.
A girl visits a very special best friend, the river. How does she know that the river loves her? “She [the river] jumps and sings when she sees me”, and “when I look into her face, she’s happy to see me.” are just two of the answers that each turn of the page provides. The girl is filled with a sense of well-being through being able to play in the river, or sit by her and think; the river will continue to be there “waiting for me, singing my name” because it is loved and respected. Gonzalez’ lyrical prose reads like a poem and offers up plenty of food for young readers’ imaginations.
While the depiction of the little girl is instantly recognisable as being in Gonzalez’ style, unusually, she emphasises the flowing and swirling of the river by allowing the white of the page to be seen behind them. In contrast to the bright blues of the water and greens and pinks of the fish and riverside flora, the girl herself is depicted in soft monochrome. This does not detract from the solidity of the girl’s presence in the narrative, but it does emphasise the central role of the river. It is particularly effective when the girl is floating in the river, her long, dark hair seeming to meld into the curves of the flowing water. At the very end, the girl is seen wearing a blue dress that flows into the river, which, in turn, has absorbed her blacks and grays among its blue. The concluding words bring the by now familiar refrain, “I know the river loves me,” and this time we also have the counterpoint that creates the balance of harmony, as well as a powerful ending to the narrative: “and I love the river.”
The practical actions involved in reaching this spiritual affinity are not ignored either – so the girl is shown taking her rubbish home. In a short appendix Gonzalez talks about her love of rivers and encourages her readers to explore rivers for themselves – both the ones that inspired her to create the book and, by extension, the rivers on their own doorsteps. I Know the River Loves Me is a gentle way to introduce young children to the mutual benefits of showing love and respect to their natural environment.