If the Rivers Run Free

If the Rivers Run Free
Publisher Name
Sleeping Bear Press
Age Range
Release Date
August 14, 2023
While rivers make up just a fraction of the water on Earth, they provide the majority of what we use every day. Rivers run over and through our world, and sometimes we don't even know they are there. But do we fully understand or even appreciate all that rivers can do? All over the world, cities large and small were built near rivers because of what they can provide: drinking water, transportation, power sources. But over the centuries as cities grew, the rivers became polluted by sewage and industrial waste, and their natural flow patterns were disrupted. Disease and flooding were often the result. In a short-sighted attempt to address these issues, city planners buried old rivers beneath city streets. But this solution brought more problems. Finally, a group of naturalists realized that freeing buried rivers could be the answer to managing urban waterways. In rhyming text, the fascinating story of "daylighting," unearthing and restoring buried rivers to their rightful places as source of well-being and beauty, comes to life.

Editor review

1 review
An ode to waterways
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
The best books are those that cause a visceral reaction.. If the Rivers Run Free did just that for my children.

"These rivers are trouble, as all of us know. We're better without them. These rivers must go."

Lyrically written with detailed imagery, If the Rivers Run Free contains a powerful message about not just polluting our water sources, but burying them as well. This book provides a nice scope of our relationship to rivers as we've developed and grown with an invitation to consider what daylighting a river can do.

Nicole Wong did a wonderful job creating these illustrations that show both the beauty and the harm in gorgeous full pages, wrapping into and around the words of the author

Back matter in the book contains a double page spread, "The Wonder of Rivers," with detailed information about rivers and daylighting for children (or adults) who are interested in learning more.
This would be a highly valuable resource for any elementary school library and has made a great addition to our homeschool library.
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