Children's Literature 12-06

Tomorrow, the River

Gray's matter-of-fact voice, dry humor, and knack for telling a page-turning story combine to make a captivating novel even for those readers not usually engaged by historical fiction. Megan Barnett is a very real fourteen year old, and an independent, strong willed young woman. All of the characters are engaging and well developed, and the dialog is as crisp, fresh, and believable as if the reader were sitting in the paddleboat with Megan, her sister and brother-in-law and their son, or walking in the river towns of the 1890s. The story speeds along like the mighty Mississippi itself and is just as full of snags, foul weather, and accidents, which serves to make the events all that much more exciting. The fictional and folksy newspaper stories interspersed between chapters reveal to the reader information about which Megan is not aware. By the end, it becomes clear that the newspaper articles are laying a trail for Megan. This book combines adventure and mystery with a lot of historical knowledge that will be painlessly, even unwittingly, absorbed, such as the history of photography, boating, trains, medicine, social attitudes towards women, along with paddleboat life, and the river people, whether clammers or boaters, and even the occasional fugitive. A must read, not just for those interested in the history of that time and place, but anyone looking for a wonderful ride.