cover image The Secret River

The Secret River

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon, S&S/Atheneum, $19.99 (56p) ISBN 978-1-4169-1179-1

The Dillons (Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears) bring new life to Pulitzer Prize–winner Rawlings's (The Yearling) absorbing story, first published post- humously in 1956, when it received a Newbery Honor. Calpurnia's father's fish-selling business is failing, so she goes to Madame Albirtha, "the wisest person in the forest," for advice. "Will you tell me where I can catch some big fish," she asks, "so that hard times will be soft times?" Calpurnia's day at the secret river produces a groaning load of catfish, but the big predators of the Florida scrub want their share, too. Sensitive, cheerful, and full of courage, Calpurnia survives every threat, brings home her prize, feeds the town—and discovers an unexpected facet of Madame Albirtha's wisdom. Mesmerizing patterns and colors distinguish the Dillons' spreads, which balance large, captivating panels with smaller vignettes clustered around the text. Their acrylics are a foray into magical realism (when Calpurnia invents a poem about befriending bees, her hair becomes a tangle of purple flowers thick with the insects), and their portraits are always true to Rawlings's imaginings. Not to be missed. Ages 4–8. (Jan.)