Original story captures
Alaska's history, culture
By Nancy Brown
"When I was young I lived beside a wild river." In Go Home, River, a young Eskimo boy and his family travel in their skin boat to the high mountains to discover the river's origins and to the ocean's shores to discover the river's destination.
In the mountains the eager boy walks in melting snow and hears thunder. He also hears his father's gentle refrain. "The river begins here." At the delta, where the river is "split into smaller rivers" and where the "shore disappeared into the water," the father explains, "We have reached the ocean. The river ends here."
The journey takes place in the family's skin boat which is pulled upstram by dogs on a towline (though two dogs are in the boat) and pushed with poles by the mother and father. A sail powers the trip downriver. The boy also finds a piece of jade along the river which is offered for trade at the gathering on the beach. The boy's parents take furs and baskets to trade with other families at the "wondrous fair" where treasures such as seal oil, skins, ivory, coffee, and beads are available.
Dianne Widom's octopus ink illustrations set the story in the last century with the family's fur clothing and skin boats, with the flat rock used to serve a meal, and with the trading scene, which shows people at work setting out their wares and caring for their children. Bags, bolts, and tins are evidence of the coastal trade with whalers.
This is an unusually original story that manages to embody Alaska history, geography, and culture.
© 1996 Alaska Newspapers Incorporated. Used by Permission.