The River Singers by Tom Moorhouse

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The River Singers by Tom Moorhouse

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Anne Thompson
Reviewed by Anne Thompson
Summary: Four young water voles are forced to abandon their home and set off on a dangerous and eventful journey to find a safe place to live. Along the way they encounter many challenges and difficulties as they learn the importance of bravery, loyalty and true friendship. This charming book has a classic feel to it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: October 2013
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780192734808

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There is a rumour spreading along the length of the Great River. It warns of a new danger that will threaten them all. But for now life continues as normal for Sylvan and his brother and sisters on the riverbank. But sometimes rumours can be true and one dreadful day Sylvan and the others have no choice but to abandon their burrow and go in search of a safe, new home. Together the family of young water voles embark on an epic journey along the river during which they will encounter many dangers and challenges but discover friendship too.

With echoes of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Watership Down this is a wonderful story with a classic, traditional feel. The writing style is lovely and the descriptions vividly conjure up the animals’ world on the riverbank. The setting in an English countryside, together with the absence of people and the modern world, give this book a timeless quality. In the middle of this rural idyll the reader is thrust into an exciting adventure with the threat of danger ever present. There are some tense and at times scary moments as Sylvan and his siblings battle against a number of enemies and challenges.

As in any story involving a journey the characters develop and mature throughout the book. Sylvan in particular is an endearing character; he starts off adventurous, cheeky and a little impulsive and as events unfold he learns to take responsibility for the others and gains maturity. The author includes both male and female characters and I particularly liked the way in which the girls are equal participants in the adventure and not relegated to the sidelines. The book should appeal to both boys and girls alike. Sylvan’s brother, Orris, is amusing and has slight Eeyore tendencies, being prone to gloom and the occasional lazy moment but even he discovers hidden depths by the end of the book. There are amusing episodes, particularly in the relationships between the young water voles but the author is not afraid to include moments of great sadness, tragedy and death too.

Over the course of their journey the family meet other animals, some friendly and others less so, but it is Fodur, a rat, who is to make the biggest impact on them. At first suspicious of him because they are unfamiliar with rats and their different language, Sylvan, Orris, Fern and Aven gradually learn to trust him and Fodur and Sylvan in particular forge an unlikely bond. As they progress into unknown territory the animals feel alien and afraid and are sometimes made welcome but often treated with suspicion. This has parallels in our world and this is useful for demonstrating to children the importance of not judging by appearances or stereotypes. There are some thought provoking passages describing the Great River as a supreme force in the animals’ lives, sometimes benevolent and protective and at other times testing them.

It would be a mistake to dismiss this enjoyable book as a story about water voles as it works on so many levels. Children frequently love stories about animals having adventures and find it easy to recognise characters and situations in them and a search for home is something that we can all identify with. The writing style would stretch young readers without deterring them and I think that this book would work beautifully read aloud too.

Many important themes such as trust, facing challenges and finding friendship in unlikely places are covered in this charming story but first and foremost it is a wonderful, exciting adventure with appealing characters that you grow to care about. An utterly lovely book and highly recommended.

We also have a review of The Rising by Tom Moorhouse.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo and Bagram Ibatoulline is another wonderful story about a journey although this time involving a china toy rabbit rather than an animal. Slightly older children may like to try the much loved classic Watership Down by Richard Adams.

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Buy The River Singers by Tom Moorhouse at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The River Singers by Tom Moorhouse at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The River Singers by Tom Moorhouse at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The River Singers by Tom Moorhouse at

Booklists.jpg The River Singers by Tom Moorhouse is in the Top Ten Books for Confident Readers 2013.


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