Week-end Review: I Know the River Loves Me by Maya Christina Gonzales

Maya Christina Gonzalez,
I Know the River Loves Me / Yo sé que el río me ama
Children’s Book Press, 2009.

Ages 5-8

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.

Marjorie Coughlan
January 2012

8 Responses to “Week-end Review: I Know the River Loves Me by Maya Christina Gonzales”

  1. Mary Says:

    Love the cover art – definitely going to look for this one, it sounds like a gorgeous book with an important message too.

  2. Marjorie Says:

    Mary, it is gorgeous, and one of the things that made it special for me is that the environmental message is there without being spelt out, apart from in terms of reciprocal respect. One of the pieces of rubbish, for example, is the plastic rings that hold together a six-pack. No particular attention is drawn to it, but it is noteworthy as one of the more notorious forms of litter in terms of danger to wildlife…

  3. Joanna Says:

    Oh, I do like the sound and visuals of this book. I am often on the look out for environmental books, but many are way too preachy for me, so I would appreciate this approach, I think. It sounds quite lyrical.

  4. Kate Coombs Says:

    Now I want this book! Thanks for explaining some of the beautiful things Gonzales did with the illustrations.

  5. Marjorie Says:

    Thank you for your comments. I hope you both manage to track it down.

  6. Blessy Mathew Says:

    You have given me a clear visual of this picture book. I feel as if I’ve already experienced the story’s magic through your review. I also wanted to say I’ve become a fan of this blog and Web site. Looking forward to reading more posts!

  7. maya gonzalez Says:

    i’m so moved to hear all this. it is quite meaningful when one is understood around something so intimate and important. thank you for all these words. i’m so glad i saw them today. i’m currently working on a book with the working title Call Me Tree. i know children and many grown ups have a deep and vital relationship with nature. it is our mami!
    River has been in transition and is just about to be picked up by a new press. i’m so excited that she will be available again! the news will be out tuesday, jan 17.
    much love and gratitude to our mamiearth and all you fellow friends. peace.

  8. Marjorie Says:

    Blessy, thank you. And I have really enjoyed exploring your blog too. I’m so glad to have signed up the Comment Challenge nd be meeting so many new blogs…

    And Maya, thank you so much for commenting – I love I Know the River Loves Me and it’s exciting news that it is about to be reissued. I have been meaning to review it for a while but then held it back, knoing that we were going to be focusing on Water this month. We really look forward to Call Me a Tree too.