translator: Dana Goldberg
illustrator: Maya Christina González
Children’s Book Press / Lee & Low, 2009
Deep inside, young children everywhere know that all the elements of Creation are alive and have volition and feelings. Young Maya is no different. She knows the river loves her and that her love comes with the responsibility to take care of the river.
With lyrical prose and flowing pictures, González shows the relationship between child and river—the river holds her reflection, sings her name, cools her down, holds her up, and is always there for her. In return, young Maya collects the garbage others have left—bottles, papers, plastic six-pack holders—and takes it all away.
González’s ink-and-charcoal illustrations, on double-page spreads, are sparse and lovely. In every illustration, Maya is smiling: waving to the river, dipping her feet, communing with her reflection, jumping on the river’s back and leaping into the river’s arms. While she paints Maya in monochromatic browns with long, flowing hair, González uses generous swirling and whirling lines on a palette of vibrant blues, aquas and greens to capture the river’s flow; browns for the birds, greens for the fishes and frogs, and a smattering of pinks and purples for the flowers and butterflies. One of my favorite illustrations is a smiling Maya (of course), standing on a bridge; her dress is patterned in the swirling blue lines that actually join with the river.
Dana Goldberg’s Spanish translation reads as elegantly as the English—“I watch her change like me” becomes “Veo que el río cambia como cambio yo”—so the youngest readers and listeners in either or both languages will enjoy this charming little book over and over. I Know the River Loves Me / Yo sé que el río me ama is highly recommended.