Sunday, December 6, 2009

River of Dreams

I just finished reading the most amazing book, River of Dreams: The Story of the Hudson River. It was written and illustrated by Hudson Talbott. He also wrote/illustrated United Tweets of America and illustrated Jacqueline Woodson's book, Show Way.

I need to first tell my 5th grade teacher friends why this is a must have. With this one book, you could help your students understand some powerful social studies and science big ideas:
  • the settling of the Mahicans along the Hudson and how they only used the river and surrounding area for food, shelter, and transportation
  • the importance of Henry Hudson, the explorer, to this river
  • why the Dutch and English moved to the area, with high expectations, only to have a different reality once they arrived
  • great side notes about the Revolutionary War that I wasn't aware of -- I especially liked the idea of the colonists "chaining" the Hudson River from the British
  • how the invention of the steamboat and the Erie Canal made the Hudson the "first super-highway" of America
  • what happened to the Hudson River with the advent of the Industrial Revolution and railroads
  • immigration to New York Harbor
  • pollution that the industry on the Hudson River made, and it was all legal
  • the pollution causing a ripple effect on the ecosystems existing along the Hudson
  • how one person can make a difference -- Franny Reese taking on Con Edison's plan to build on Storm King Mountain along the Hudson River
Pretty amazing, right?!

Beyond the content of River of Dreams, this is a book to be savored for other reasons as well. Hudson Talbott has put beautiful illustrations in this story, using a variety of mediums: watercolors, colored pencils, and ink on watercolor paper. Within the illustrations, there is much to notice on each page. Sometimes there are inset pictures, there are many separate pictures about information in the text with accompanying labels or captions, and there is a river that "flows" through some of the pages containing timelines and other pertinent information.

The pictures are truly a visual feast for the eyes. One of my favorite pictures is the one where the Hudson River is frozen and it shows how they used the frozen river for ice blocks. The cutting and gathering of ice is fascinating.

River of Dreams: The Story of the Hudson River is a very smart book about a variety of topics using the Hudson River as a backdrop and done in a beautiful way. It's nomination to make the long list of the Cybils' non-ficiton picture book category was well deserved!! It is obvious that the author is passionate about the Hudson River and the area surrounding it.

** This book was a review copy provided by the publisher, Penguin Young Readers Group. **

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