River by Elisha Cooper

Hello, Elisha Cooper! It was wonderful spending time with you on Facebook Live during ALA Annual 2018 in New Orleans. During our conversation, you mentioned River. I’m thrilled you’re here to share River’s cover with the world. What do you love most about the Hudson River?

Elisha Cooper: So many things! I love that the Hudson River starts in the mountain wilderness of the Adirondacks and ends in the bustling harbor of New York City. What else besides a river has moose and tugboats? Nothing. I love that diversity. The Hudson also has been hugely important in our country’s history, which is true of all great rivers (when we spoke in New Orleans we were on the banks of the Mississippi). And rivers are good narrative devices. They start, they finish. This book is about the adventures of a brave young woman as she canoes down the Hudson, and the obstacles she must face as she paddles her way home. 

What came first: the text or the illustrations?

Elisha Cooper: Coffee came first (coffee always comes first). And then, driving alongside the Hudson with my sketchbook. A big reason I love children’s books is the distinctions between text and illustration, writing and art, break down. So if I’m sketching a landscape, or a boat, I’m thinking of words to describe what I am seeing, and everything starts playing off everything else — a phrase, a pencil line — and at some point becomes inseparable. I love that. Have I mentioned to you, Mr. Schu, how much I love children’s books? 

What would we see if we visited your studio?

Elisha Cooper: Mayhem! Two ferocious cats. Books everywhere, art on the walls. Music playing, probably Hamilton. I paint at home, so my “studio” is really the corner of the “big room” in our Manhattan “apartment” (in the evening you would also see two great teenage daughters and a lovely professor wife). I like writing in caf├ęs in Brooklyn. But I paint at home with the cats. 

Please finish these sentence starters:

I hope River changes the world. Or, at least, the world of one reader. That’s all a writer can hope for, really. But I do hope this book inspires young readers toward their own adventures. This could be the adventure of reading (think of how we all get lost in books, like explorers). Or picking up a pencil. Or taking a nature walk in a local park, or, if you’re lucky, getting out on the water.

If there is a sneaky point to this book, it’s to encourage the act of looking at the natural world around us, to see that it is so beautiful, and then to understand how important it is to protect it. So, my wild hope is that a young girl in Plano, Texas will read River, become an ardent environmentalist, grow up to head the Environmental Protection Agency, and save us all. See? I really do hope River changes the world.

Picture books are just books, but better.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me to go with you on a canoe trip down the Hudson River. I would answer, “Yes!”

Look for River on October 1, 2019. 

A breathtaking adventure as a traveler and her canoe begin their trek down the Hudson River. In a mountain lake, the canoe gently enters the water's edge, paddling toward the river. The nautical journey begins.

She is alone, far from home.
Three hundred miles stretch in front of her.
A faraway destination, a wild plan. And the question: can she do this?

In Cooper's flowing prose and stunning watercolor scenes, readers can follow along the trek as the woman and her canoe explore the wildlife, flora and fauna, and urban landscape at the river's edge. Through perilous weather and river rushes, the canoe and her captain survive and maneuver their way down the river back home.

River is an outstanding introduction to seeing the world through the eyes of a young explorer and a great picture book for the STEAM curriculum.

Maps and information about the Hudson River and famous landmarks are included in the back of the book.


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