The Books

The Raft

by Jim LaMarche

Hardcover, 40 pages

Published by HarperCollins (2000-04-05)

List Price: $17.99

Actual Price: $16.19

See Used and New offers (From $2.57)

Amazon Description

Inspired in part by his own childhood, this gorgeous picture book from Jim LaMarche, the beloved illustrator of A Story for Bear and The Elves and the Shoemaker, tells the story of one stubborn boy’s unexpectedly wonderful summer on the river.

This is an imagination-sparking story about appreciating the simple, natural joys of the world and the people in it, and about discovering and exploring one’s own talents. School Library Journal proclaimed, “This dazzling picture book is an artistic triumph.” The author’s note describes the similarities between his own life and the life of his protagonist.

Nicky is convinced that his summer with his grandmother in the Wisconsin woods is going to be the worst summer ever. She cooks food that he doesn’t like, there’s an art studio where her living room should be, and he’s expected to do chores—including fishing, the most boring chore ever.

But one afternoon, while Nicky is trying to catch their dinner, a raft drifts down the river towards him. The raft has a calming magic about it, affecting both Nicky and the wildlife of the river and woods. Through the raft and the adventures it brings him on, Nicky finds new common ground with his grandmother, a fellow river rat, who encourages him to explore his newfound talent for art.

One Potato Review

There’s a lot of good stuff here - art and nature, a sullen tween and a lively grandmother - yet as much as this is a story about a city slicker learning some good ol’ country wisdom, it’s really most persuasive when detailing one boy’s lunges at independence. Interesting: the boy in these pages is always wearing a life vest (and usually glasses) where the boy on the cover is advertising a more scenic approach. You know where this story is aiming from page one, though you might want to see how it gets there. It’s a halting journey finally - summer always gives way to the demands of school and after-school and after-that - but here is a landscape worth revisiting. 

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