The River Boy
Jessica Brown, Author
Finch & Fellow Publishing Home, Historical Fiction, 2016
Suitable for Ages: 8-12
Themes: Montana Frontier, Abuse, Friendship, Adventure, Imagination, Courage, Hope
Nine-year-old Clara is worried about spending a lonely and boring summer on her family ranch in Montana, which is two miles outside of town. It is 1909 and she lives with her parents and two older brothers on a ranch that her grandfather built after the civil war. Everyone pitches in to keep the ranch operating — weeding cornfields, planting gardens and caring for the livestock.
Feeling that “hollow” space inside her, Clara heads to her special place, the grassy banks of the river. There in the middle of her river, she spots a boy sitting on a big rock. Josiah invites her to join him and lends his hand. He asks Clara if she knows what the rock is here for? “It’s for people who know how be still,” says Clara. He smiles at her and at that moment, Clara knows they will be friends. Josiah is unlike anyone she has ever met before. He enjoys exploring nature, is full of full of ideas and has a huge imagination. They decide to write a book together and hope to travel all over town and countryside to collect people stories.
As their adventure unfolds, Clara realizes that Josiah has dark secrets. He lives with his sister and father, who is an abusive alcoholic. Clara hopes that if Josiah can publish his book, he will be able to move to somewhere safe. They run an advertisement in the town newspaper and invite people to submit their stories. But they butt heads with the publisher, Dr. Lowell, who is furious and prints a retraction. It will take much gumption for Clara and Josiah to fight for their book. And there is a town full of people who each have a story to tell. The town’s folk come together and send their stories to Clara and Josiah and stand up to the arrogant Dr. Lowell. Ultimately Clara realizes that sometimes assumptions about people may not be correct and it may take time to look deeper to truly get to know what drives behavior.
Jessica Brown has penned an original novel about the power of a story to connect people despite all their differences. It is a heartwarming tale full of hope with believable characters you will love, rich dialogue, and vivid imagery appropriate to Montana in 1909. The pacing is perfect with short chapters. Brown creates a satisfying and story about friendship and courage for young readers. It reminds you a bit of Sarah, Plain and Tall, one the author’s favorite childhood books.
Jessica Brown loves to cook, hike, read, and go on road trips with her husband and son. She grew up in Texas and has since lived in Indiana, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, England, Ireland and New Zealand. Her graduate studies include English, creative writing and spiritual formation. She has written a memoir, The Grace to Be Human, which will be released this year. Visit Jessica at her website.
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*The author provided me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
14 thoughts on “The River Boy by Jessica Brown”
This sounds like a winner with the interesting characters in town and Josiah’s family life. Love that they are trying to publish a book.
Clara and Josiah working deligently to publish a book and all of the obstacles they had to face was my favorite part of the book. You don’t see that in many stories. But there is something magical about it!
What a great idea for a book. Not easy to find the right voice for that time period. Sounds like a wonderful middle-grade book.
I think Jessica found the right voices for the early 1900s. My grandparents would have been their ages. I was smitten by Jessica’s book!
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These characters sound very endearing. Reminds me of another historical fiction, Phoebe’s Heron. Let’s hope young readers find Jessica’s book. I know I will be adding it to my own list. Thanks for the background on this story.
This story is filled with heart! Yes, I hope I can give this book some love so others will teens will find it. I have Phoebe’s Heron on my stack to read soon. Glad it’s historical fiction!
I love that the story includes their mission to publish Josiah’ story. I enjoy heartfelt stories in small-town settings.
Thanks for sharing!
Me too. It is such a heartwarming period piece to curl up with.
Jessica has always been a clarion voice for heartfelt, sensitive conversation and caring.
I can imagine writing my story to Clara and Josiah!
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Thank you for visiting. I sensed a lot of compassion in Jessica’s writing. I found myself wondering what I’d write to Clara and Josiah.
This sounds like a lovely book. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
It is a book you want to spend time with.
This novel sounds great! I especially love the idea of two kids who actually write their own book! Thanks for the recommendation!
It was a fun and wistful read. I particularly enjoyed how Clara and Josiah went about writing their story and their determination!