Swift Rivers



Book: Swift Rivers

Author: Cornelia Meigs

Cover Illustrator: Tim Tanner

Publisher: Walker, republished 2004)

ISBN-13: 978-0802777034

ISBN-10: 0802777031

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 10 and up

Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion.  Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

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Meigs, Cornelia.  Swift Rivers (published in 1932 by Little Brown and Company; republished in 1994 by Walker Publishing Company Inc., 104 Fifth Ave., New York City, NY  10014).  It is 1835, Andrew Jackson is President, and seventeen to eighteen year old Christian (Chris) Dahlberg lives in the Goose Wing River Valley in the upper portion of the Louisiana Purchase in what will become the state of Minnesota.  Chris is an orphan who, after his parents died when he was little, has grown up living and working on the farm of his mother’s brother, his mean-spirited Uncle Nels Anderson.  Chris’s grandfather, Alexis Dahlberg, lives further up the valley in an old cabin.  When winter comes, Chris goes to check on Alexis against his uncle’s wishes and is barred from his family’s homestead by Nels, so the boy weathers the winter with his grandfather. They live in near poverty.

A passing Easterner named Stuart Hale, two or three years older than Chris, suggests that he could make money for his education and provide for his grandfather’s golden years by harvesting the trees on his grandfather’s land and floating the logs down the spring floodwaters of the Mississippi to the lumber mills in Saint Louis, so with the help of river raftsman Pierre Dumenille, he decides to try it and has many adventures along the way.  Will Chris be successful in his undertaking?  With all the dangers from rapids, thieves, and Indians along the way, can he even make it to St. Louis?  And if he gets there, does he receive honest treatment?  Author Cornelia Meigs was a Newbery Honor recipient for this book in 1933 and then won the Newbery Medal in 1934 for Invincible Louisa, her biography of Louisa May Alcott.

Swift Rivers is great historical fiction filled with exciting stories of raft hands and river pilots. There is almost nothing objectionable.  Pipe smoking is mentioned, and it is occasionally said that someone swore, but no actual swear words are used.  On the positive side, it is noted that various characters thanked God from time to time for their blessings.  As he headed for a church service, Pierre said, “That Good Friend…must not go unthanked.”  Because he is earnest and honest, young Chris is a good role model of perseverance and devotion who overcomes many hardships, and readers get a glimpse of life along the Mississippi in our nation’s early years. The original book was illustrated by Forrest W. Orr, but the copy I read had no illustrations.  This is the kind of story that truly deserves to be a Newbery Honor Book.

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