HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Children of the River
Author: Linda Crew
Publisher: Laurel Leaf, reprinted 1991
ISBN-13: 978-0780709072 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0780709071 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0440210221 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0440210221 Paperback
Language level: 5 (unfortunately)
(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: For ages 12 – 17; I would say more 16-18
Rating: **** 4 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Crew, Linda. Children of the River (Published in 1989 by Delacorte Press, New York City, NY 10036; republished in 1991 by Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc., 1540 Broadway, New York City, NY 10036). In 1975, thirteen year old Sundara Sovann fled the village of Ream, Cambodia, with her aunt Soka, uncle Naro, and their family to escape the Khmer Rouge army. She left behind her parents, her brother and sister, and Chamroeun, the boy she had loved since she was a child. It is four years later, and Sundara, now seventeen, struggles to be “a good Cambodian girl” at home who never dates but waits for her family to arrange her marriage to a Cambodian boy, and still fit in at her Willamette Grove, Oregon, high school where she and Jonathan McKinnon, an extraordinary American boy, are powerfully drawn to each other.
Sundara is haunted, by grief for her lost family and for the life left behind, yet wonders if her hopes for happiness and new life in America are disloyal to her past and her people. Will Sundara ever see her parents, siblings, and boyfriend again? Are she and Jonathan able to overcome the differences between their backgrounds and cultures? And can the difficulties that arise within her family be resolved? I found book this to be an interesting and eminently readable story with a satisfying conclusion. Unfortunately, it is marred by some unnecessary bad language. The term “God” is occasionally used profanely as an exclamation, the “h” word appears a few times, and even the “s” word is found once.
Publishers Weekly said, “The resolution comes smoothly and plausibly, offering a moving look at the way in which a survivor of great tragedy, having confronted overwhelming changes in her life, faces young adulthood.” The biggest complaint which I saw was from those who felt that the plot portrayed the Cambodian culture as oppressively “strict and mean,” from which Sunara must be saved by a wonderful Caucasian prince in shining armor. This sounds to me like the ravings of the anti-European, multicultural crowd. I think that author Linda Crew does a good job of balancing the importance of assimilation with maintaining traditional customs in a new land at the same time. Several others noted that it gives a real glimpse of what some people go through to get a better life.