HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: When the River Ran Backward
Author: Emily Crofford
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group, 2000
Related website: www.lernerbooks.com (publisher)
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading level: Ages 13-16
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Crofford, Emily. When the River Ran Backward (published in 2000 and available in two editions, harcover by Carorhoda Books, Inc., and softcover by First Avenue Editions, both divisions of Lerner Publishing Group, 241 First Ave. North, Minneapolis, MN 55401). Lerner is a company publishing quality children’s books for many years. A few years ago, my father told me about a historical fiction book that he had read concerning the New Madrid earthquake of 1811-1812. I was trying to find it and not having much success, but in doing a library search on historical fiction relating to the New Madrid earthquake, I came up with When the River Ran Backward. It is not the book my father mentioned, but I checked it out anyway because it sounded interesting.
It is the story of the Mawston family, consisting of Father, who was born in Wales, lived as a young man in Philadelphia, began his family in Kentucky, and then moved them to New Madrid in the Louisiana Territory; Mother; Jedidiah, age seventeen; and Laurel, age fifteen; Jed’s Spanish friend Roberto de Vega, who falls in love with Laurel; and Roberto’s French friend Catherine Le Brix with whom Jed falls in love. The action centers on Laurel. It is a well-written, easily read tale, although it does end rather sadly and, to me somewhat abruptly, when after the second major quake, the family moves from New Madrid to Twappity Hill, about forty miles northwest, where Roberto marries Laurel and Jed forgets about the capricious Miss Le Brix when he meets Rachel.
I noticed only a few small negatives. Father does not approve of Senor de Vega because Spaniards drink wine and dance. While we must learn to avoid prejudicial generalizations, it almost sounded as if Father’s opposition to drinking wine and dancing were being made fun of. Also Mother and Laurel laugh over de Vega’s accidentally seeing Laurel in her underwear (petticoats) when he comes to see how they are doing after the first major shock (of course, petticoats of those days covered so much more than underwear of today). And there are a few references to drinking and smoking. However, the Mawston family is quite religious, believing in God, attending church services, and praying regularly. There is no bad language. Girls might be a little more interested in this book than boys, but the historical aspects are beneficial for all.