HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Riparia’s River
Author: Michael J. Caduto
Illustrator: Olga Pastuchiv
Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Grades 3-6
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Caduto, Michael J. Riparia’s River (published in 2011 by Tilbury House Publishers, 103 Brunswick Ave., Gardiner, ME 04345). Have you any idea what causes pollution in rivers? The fact is that many things can pollute water, but did you know that even natural things which might run off farmland may damage a river? When Jason, Mark, Gretchen, and little Daphne go to a nearby river to swim, they find that it smells like a sewer and is covered with green, slimy stuff. So the four children go up the river to see what’s going on. They meet a mysterious naturalist named Riparia, whose name means “of the riverbank.” She tells them that planting corn and letting cattle right down to the river’s edge allows chemicals and cow manure to wash into the river. This in turn feeds algae which use up the oxygen that river plants and animals need, And it smells bad too!
Riparia explains that a river needs a buffer of around 100 feet, about as far as Mark can throw a stone, with natural plants to keep down erosion and absorb the fertilizers, thus helping to clean the runoff before it reaches the river. Gretchen is a friend of Amy, the daughter of the farmer whose corn fields and cow pastures abut the river and are hurting it and ruining the children’s swimming hole. She suggests that they ask Amy to come swim with them and maybe, when she sees what’s going on, she might be able to encourage her father to do something about it. Will Amy’s dad listen? Is there anything that the children can do to help save the river, and if so what is it? And can they do it all by themselves or will they need help?
Everyone wants clean rivers so that we can have good water to drink and nice places to play. Author Michael J. Caduto, who is an ecologist, storyteller, and musician, uses this story to remind us that we all have a responsibility to help keep our rivers clean and that there are things which we can do to achieve that goal. I especially like the non-confrontational approach of Riparia’s River. When her new friends learn about the cornfield runoff, Riparia replies, “The farmer can plant his corn, just not all the way down to the water.” And later, she cautions them, “You don’t want to upset your friend. No one likes to be told what to do.” Illustrator Olga Pastuchiv’s lush, realistic illustrations nicely illuminate the children’s desire to restore an ecosystem badly out of balance. The book is a great resource to help youngsters learn about river systems and habitats.