cover image Letting Swift River Go

Letting Swift River Go

Jane Yolen. Little Brown and Company, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-316-96899-7

Like Virginia Lee Burton's The Little House and the Provensens' Shaker Lane , this felicitous marriage of text and art portrays the impact of modernization on one community. Yolen's gently poetic text tells how the young Sally Jane witnesses the forming of the Quabbin Reservoir in western Massachusetts and, thereby, the unavoidable drowning of her Swift River valley town. Gradually the streets she traveled and the homes she played in are covered by water for the hungry city's (Boston's) needs. Since young readers caring about Sally Jane will see this plight through her eyes, they are sure to grasp the plot's historical relevance. But the author is telling more than a personal or even a regional story here. Sally Jane's mother's words at the book's end, recalled when the girl and her father are in a boat on the now-filled reservoir--''You have to let them go, Sally Jane''--speak wisely to all of us about our pasts. (These words touchingly echo the mother's earlier admonition regarding trapped fireflies.) Despite the somewhat uninspired jacket painting, Cooney's charmingly detailed, childlike and colorful art is the perfect choice for this New England tale. Children will be captivated by her perspective of earlier days, when kids played mumblety-peg and walked to school on scenic country roads. A stirring and resonant book. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)