HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Swimming Home
Author: Susan Hand Shetterly
Illustrator: Rebekah Raye
Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers, 2014
Related website: http://www.tilburyhouse.com (publisher)
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)
Recommended reading level: Ages 6-11
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Shetterly, Susan Hand. Swimming Home (published in 2014 by Tilbury House Publishers, 12 Starr St., Thomaston, ME 04861). Do you know what an alewife is? No, it’s not a woman married to a tavern keeper, although many think that the name may have come from that idea. Alewives, also known as river herring or sawbellies, are fish which live in the western North Atlantic Ocean and swim up the rivers and streams of the eastern coast of North America to spawn in their home freshwater lakes and ponds. Pesca is the leader of an alewife school. She brings her followers on a journey of hundreds of miles, through the ocean and up the stream past porpoises, a humpback whale, a harbor seal, a bald eagle, a blue heron, and beavers, on their way to Lily Lake. However, towards the end they come to a pipe under a new road that is much too high for them to reach. What will they do? Is there anyone to help them? Will they ever make it?
This Tilbury House Nature Book is an epic animal migration story in the tradition of March of the Penguins. It is an excellent introduction for young readers to the concept of animal migration, and it also shows how even small human actions can either hinder or help the flow of nature. Author Susan Hand Shetterly, a former wild bird rehabilitator, lives in Maine near an alewife run. She has written about wildlife and wildlands for adult and youth audiences for over twenty years. Swimming Home is illustrated with spectacular paintings by Rebekah Raye, who is also the illustrator of The Secret Pool, a Kirkus-starred picture book about vernal pools and winner of the 2014 John Burroughs Association Riverby Award. An “Author’s Note” at the end provides even more information about alewives and their life cycle. The book is a wonderful way for youngsters to learn about a very important scientific concept.