cover image River Boy

River Boy

Tim Bowler. Margaret K. McElderry Books, $16 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-689-82908-6

Jess is 15 years old, the same age as her grandfather was when he lost both parents in a fire and moved away from his childhood home by the river. Now growing frail, his last wish is to return to the river and finish his last painting, entitled River Boy. Grandpa calls Jess his muse; she counts on him to cheer her on at her swim meets. As they commence their vacation, the unfinished painting troubles Jess, more so as she begins to sense a mysterious presence on the river. Then she begins to see the river boy himself, waiting for her, asking for her assistance in a special mission. The narrative builds too slowly, and some of the passages seem out of character or overblown (e.g., a few times Jess's parents mention that they feel they're neglecting her; Jess tells the river boy, ""Stay a mystery a little longer. I can't take any more truth right now""). However, Bowler's (The Midget) 1998 Carnegie Medal winner succeeds in conveying the strong bond between Jess and her grandfather; as the novel unfolds, she realizes they have more in common than she'd ever imagined. Ages 12-up. (June)