Friday, 1 November 2013

3D Review - The River Singers by Tom Moorhouse

The perils and courage of a family of timid orphaned water voles is the subject of a sparkling debut, ‘The River Singers’, by Tom Moorhouse – an author who puts to excellent use that his day job is as a water vole expert in the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University’s zoology department.

Tom Moorhouse uses his tremendous knowledge about these threatened creatures to take us right into their world and brings us a thrilling tale, but also one with an urgent environmental message at its heart – to protect our natural world.

Told from the point of view from the endangered water voles, feisty young Sylvan and his siblings must venture boldly along the river after their mother is killed by a mink. Their attempt to find safety in a world where threat lurks at every turn is turned into a tremendous story and children will delight in joining in with the lives of these endearing creatures.

Each time the family of water voles leave the safety of their burrow they are the target of foxes, herons, and of course, the deadly mink. Their quest for refuge and a new home becomes an epic adventure, although friends are at hand, sometimes in unexpected places.

There is sadness as well as laughter and bravery. The delightful scenes depicting the beauty and fragility of the natural world make this book particularly special. Tom Moorhouse's infectious love of the English countryside is engaging and shines through the whole story.

What is likely to particularly appeal to readers (aged nine upwards) is that it follows in a wonderful tradition of stories about our native wildlife – the much-loved Ratty of ‘The Wind in the Willows’ or ‘Watership Down’, where the everyday lives of familiar creatures become adventures that children find it easy to relate to.

But like all great books, it's not simply a good story. Water voles used to be a familiar sight on our river banks, but their decline has been swift (a fifth in two years) and this is a timely book that should also be a call to do more to protect some of our precious creatures.

As a book it has also been beautifully produced with and white illustrations by Simon Mendez that make this a real book to treasure – in more ways than one. I am a bit of a fan of illustrated books for older readers and the whole look and feel of this book marks it out as a future classic. Definitely one of the most special books this year.

Review of 'The River Singers' by Alex Thornton, age 9

As I have a nature-obsessed son I knew just who would be the right person to review this book! (After our red squirrel hunting summer holiday this year, there has already been a request to now see a water vole.)

I really liked the characters and adventure that went into this book. It also has a lot of information about how water voles live, there predators and mink but just told in a story. I loved the fact that I learned so much - it was a good scientific book, which I really liked.

The main characters are: Foder, the rat, and the water voles, Fern, Orris, Mother and Sylvan. 

Sylvan is my favourite character because he was the adventurous one, but he also looked after the other water voles.

It is a very emotional book (sometimes sad, sometimes worrying) and they have to get past many dangers on the way to the wetted lands. I liked the mixed emotion and adventure, which made it gripping. I think this will become a best seller in the future! I really enjoyed it.

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