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The Secret River

3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  463 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings + Leo and Diane Dillon = pure magic!
A depression era story that is just as timely as it is enchanting, this is a stunning picture book for the ages.

There's just not enough not enough money, not enough food, not enough fish for her daddy to sell at the market. Hard times have come to the forest, but Calpurnia wants to turn them back into soft time
Hardcover, 56 pages
Published January 4th 2011 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers (first published 1955)
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Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnellI Want My Hat Back by Jon KlassenGrandpa Green by Lane SmithPerfect Square by Michael  HallBlackout by John Rocco
2012 Mock Caldecott
28th out of 85 books — 188 voters
Sabriel by Garth NixThe People Could Fly by Virginia HamiltonA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'EngleThe Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. Le GuinHoney, I Love and Other Love Poems by Eloise Greenfield
Cover Art By Leo and Diane Dillon
10th out of 41 books — 7 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 955)
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Jun 12, 2015 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
I loved almost everything about this book! (And I don't love fishing; but I certainly appreciate and understand its necessity in cases such as this.)

Calpurnia is a wonderful heroine; bright, brave, resourceful, kindhearted, and intuitive. I adore her poems! I love her kindness to *all* animals, even those that others would deem too scary or dangerous. Buggy-horse is such a charming companion for her adventures. I especially appreciate stories where children help adults in trying times and this
Jun 02, 2011 Barbara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ncbla
Calpurnia loves to think up rhymes and spend time with her dog Buggy-horse. When her father tells that times are hard for everyone, she decides to find some fish in order to help out. After getting directions from a neighbor, she finds a secret river where fish abound. She catches plenty but then must make her way home in the dark. As she encounters an owl, a bear, and a panther, she offers them fish in order to pass safely. Her father is able to sell the fish, enabling its buyers to find the st ...more
Any book that gives me goosebumps gets five stars! Did you see the face in the forest? Did you see the hands in the bear grass? Did you see the fish in the leaves? Did you see Mother Albirtha's necklace change expressions? Did you see the chairs at Calpurnia's house repaired in two different ways? *happy sigh* I love the tonal shifts in color throughout the book, from thin gray dawn to golden green afternoon to golden brown sunset to deep blue night. I love the folkloric narrative arc of the sto ...more
Jan 27, 2011 Christopher rated it it was amazing
The first solid Caldecott contender for 2012, Leo & Diane Dillon have done some of their best work in this retelling of the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Newbery Honor book from 1958. Many of the almost full page illustrations contain many hidden images that further enrich the already strong and solid story. Rawlings story of a young girl, Calpurnia, and her dog setting out to find the answer for her small town's financial issues is one that is relatable to todays financial and economic situation ...more
Mary Jo Garcia-Brown
Feb 13, 2011 Mary Jo Garcia-Brown rated it it was amazing
This is a classic by the renowned author, Marjorie Kinnans Rawlings. I'd never seen the book before so was intrigued. It was a profoundly beautiful tale of a young girl who decides to help her father whose business has been stricken by the Great Depression. With a little magic and a lot of imagination, she makes a miracle happen. I found myself near tears at points in this book, perhaps because the child is so selfless, her intentions so pure. The illustrations are equally magical, reflecting th ...more
Dec 15, 2011 Roy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: for-children
Absolutely wonderful! My daughter still yearns for picture books over chapter books with spot illustrations here and there, but she's old (and ridiculously bright) enough to want stories with more depth and substance than is to be found in shorter children's books intended for limited attention spans. This book is a fantastic bridge from child to kid literature. The entire family was enchanted by this sweet, mystical tale of a girl who wants to do her part to turn hard times into soft.
Linda Lipko
This is a re-issued book of the author's 1956 Newbery honor award winning book of the same title.

In lush illustrations, the story of Calpurnia and her dog Buggy-horse unfolds. Deep in the dark forest of Florida is a community reliant on each other. If one fails, like a domino they are all impacted.

Hard times occurred in the forest. The rivers carrying fish for Calpurnia's father to sell have all gone dry. Hard times hit harder for poor people.

Calpurnia wondered how she could possibly help her f
Sep 27, 2015 Josiah rated it liked it
I haven't read the original version of The Secret River, which the afterward to this edition says is "slightly longer", but I definitely do plan on reading it someday. Leonard Weisgard's illustrations for the story must be some incredible sight to see, and I'm sure well worth the effort required to track down a used copy of the book. This is the new edition I'm reviewing here, however, and so I will focus on what I saw from this version.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings is an author nonpareil. She work
Feb 18, 2011 Tasha rated it it was amazing
Luminously illustrated by the Dillons, this new version of a classic children’s book truly shines. The only children’s book written by the author of The Yearling, this story is about Calpurnia, a young girl who is a poet. She woke up one gorgeous morning and found that she had a journey ahead of her. Her father told the family that he had no fish to sell in his fish market. So Calpurnia decided to catch some fish herself. She made roses out of crepe paper for bait and then headed to get advice f ...more
Jun 07, 2011 Kris rated it liked it
Shelves: newbery-honor
I agree with the goodreads review by Marika, who said "The Dillons’ illustrations bring depth to the story, expanding the text and showing the magic and imagination present in Calpurnia’s world." The cover art intrigued me right away, I could hardly walk by without picking this one up. I don't know how this book stands up against others this year, Caldecott-wise, but it may just get a nod from the Coretta Scott King committee.

The entire book follows the same pattern illustratively -- one full-pa
Jun 15, 2015 Dolly rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: parents reading with older children
This is a wonderful tale, accompanied by gorgeous illustrations for this 2011 reprint of the classic Newbery Honor story. The story is heartwarming, with a young girl who finds a way to contribute to her family that ends up helping a whole community.

The illustrations are so expressive and magical, we found ourselves just pausing our reading of the tale and staring at them, pointing out the different things we saw. This is a book that deserves a second look once you have read the story.

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May 28, 2011 Ashley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the original 1955 edition of this children's book, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, after a fascinating lecture on the origins of the book and the differences between the Weisgard method of illustrating it and the illustrations in the new 2011 release of the book. The story was published posthumously, and there is some indication that Rawlings intended to turn the story into a longer young adult novel, like The Yearling. Beautifully written, the story follows a young black girl named Capu ...more
Tricia Douglas
Sep 14, 2013 Tricia Douglas rated it it was amazing
After reading the wonderful book by Kris Radish called A Grand Day to Get Lost which revolved around the life of Marjorie Rawlings (winner of the Pulitzer for The Yearling), I became infatuated with Rawling's life. I found The Secret River which was the only book Rawlings wrote specifically for children. The copy I read was beautifully written with gorgeous illustrations by the talented Dillon artists. The story is written like a folktale. A young girl wants to find the secret river so she can c ...more
Mar 27, 2013 Maureen rated it it was amazing
Calpurnia is a young poet full of beautiful words and images. Unfortunately her family is poor and her father has fallen on "hard times" because he is unable to find any fish to sell. Calpurnia wants to make things "soft" again so she sets out to find fish for her father. The local fortune teller tells Calpurnia to follow her nose and that's just what she does to find a secret river full of fish. Along the way home Calpurnia runs into some trouble, but she is a resourceful girl and figures out a ...more
Jun 30, 2011 Marika rated it really liked it
A Leo & Diane Dillon cover will make me pick up a book and, if it’s a picturebook, take it home before I even open it. The Secret River is beautiful story with the feeling of a folk tale. When hard times come to the forest and Calpurnia’s father can’t catch fish to sell, Calpurnia sets out with her dog to catch fish and help her father. Following her nose, she finds the secret river, bursting with fish.With hard work, determination, and belief in the extraordinary, Calpurnia brings softer ti ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Nov 23, 2011 Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance rated it really liked it
Calpurnia’s family is having hard times. Her father is not catching any fish. Calpurnia speaks to a friend, a fortune-teller and she tells Calpurnia about a secret river that is filled with fish. Calpurnia goes to the secret river and returns home with so many fish she can hardly carry them. On the way home, she encounters several predators who each accept a fish before walking away. Bringing the fish home ends the hard times for the family and their neighbors.

“Mother Albirtha rocked back and fo
Jun 29, 2015 Jenny rated it really liked it
Both the story and illustrations are wonderful!! Calpurnia is a smart and kind little girl. When her family is in trouble because her father is unable to catch fish, she wants to help. Mother Albirtha, the wisest woman in the village, tells her to follow her nose and she will find the secret River where plenty of fish will bite. So Calpurnia does exactly that. (I love how literally she follows the woman's advice!). She finds the secret river and catches many fish. Then this kind hearted and brav ...more
Nov 09, 2011 Deborah rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-book
Calpurnia is a delightful, innocent girl who finds her family affected by hard times. Her father is a fisherman who can't find fish and as a result the locals of the forest don't have food to eat or energy to work. Calpurnia turns to the local wise woman for help. Mother Albirtha tells Calpurnia of the secret river that is teeming with fish, especially catfish. She tells Calpurnia to follow her nose to find this mysterious river. Calpurnia does and good things happen as a result. This recently r ...more
Apr 18, 2012 Ardene rated it it was amazing
The secret river, text by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, ill Leo Dillon & Diane Dillon is a wonderful story with lush illustrations. One morning at breakfast, Calpurnia's father anounces that hard times have come.

"I make an honest living selling fish to other poor people. Now there are no fish. Nobody can catch any fish. I shall have to close my fish market, and things will go hard with all of us."

When Calpurnia hears from Mother Abirtha about a secret river with lots of fish, she and her dog Bu
Taylor Ford
The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was an amazing story with a very strong plot. In this story, a little girl who learns her father is struggling with work. He is a fisherman, and the river is dry with no fish in it. This causes stress and hardship over the girls whole home town. She decided she needed to help her father find the fish. She goes to the oldest and wisest woman in the town, who tells her about a secret river in the forest filled with fish for the town to have. The little ...more
Marianne Reeves
Jan 01, 2011 Marianne Reeves rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charming chapter book filled with the wonder and magic of the Florida outdoors. Tale of Calpurnia and her faithful dog Buggy-horse searching the deep forest for the secret river. Whimsical 1950s illustrations by Leonard Weisgard enhance this story; the only children's story written by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

My favorite line spoken by Calpurnia to Buggy-horse, " Wake up, my dear dog. I have a feeling something special is going to happen today." What a lovely thought to have every day!
Candace Carr
Nov 22, 2012 Candace Carr added it
Shelves: poetry
Reading this book to students is wonderful because they might be able to relate to Calpurnia who writes poems about the life around her. It's also good to read to students because they might be able to relate because the little girl wants to help her parens out since they have fallen to hard times. As a child, I would have related to this book because I wanted to help my parents out when they didn't have money and this little girl finds a way to help them and maybe students will relate too.
Jun 11, 2011 Laura rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s, 2011, picture
A beautiful book! Calpurnia and her sweet dog, Buggy-horse, help her father by catching fish in a secret river. I enjoyed the story, which has a wonderful voice and rich descriptions. I also enjoyed the artwork and use of color; the illustrations are beautiful and add quite a bit to the story. This is more like an illustrated chapter book; the text is long and fairly advanced. I recommend this book for students in grades 4 - 5.
Feb 16, 2011 JeNeal rated it it was amazing
This lovely story, brought back to life by the Dillons is enchanting. Leo and Diane Dillon are the perfect illustrators for the charismatic tale told by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and originally published in 1956. Such a delight for the eyes as well as the ears, the character Calpurnia and her dog, Buggy Horse are timeless in their longing, their innocence and their growing understanding of life and value.
Betsy Brainerd
Feb 07, 2011 Betsy Brainerd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: picture-book
Leo and Diane Dillon have done beautiful work with these illustrations. [Originally illustrated by Weisgard when published in 1956.]The story itself is for older readers due to its length. Calpurnia is on a mission to find fish to alleviate the hard times that have come to her poor family's rural town and, in particular, her father's fish market. A modern folktale with magical elements.
Monica Fastenau
Nov 28, 2014 Monica Fastenau rated it liked it
This Newbery honor book by Leo and Diane Dillon is from 1956, and it is very cute. Each page is filled with colored illustrations that look like paintings–gorgeous. Although there are a lot of words on many of the pages, I suppose you could call it a picture book. It is just a beautiful, lovely book.

The story itself is also very nice, sort of a modern-day fable. A young girl named Calpurnia is worried about her father, who cannot catch enough fish to keep his fish market open. Times are hard. So
Mar 04, 2012 Bianca rated it it was amazing
Oh, I want this one. I'd read it to the preschool class during the whole of rest time, and if I did it right, they would not stir, even if it took a second day to finish. There are large illustrations that would interest children sitting around a teacher and smaller illustrations, patterns and details to reward individual readers, too. It's beautiful.
Aug 06, 2011 Amanda rated it did not like it
had no idea it was a newbery honor book. before our roadtrip me and rosanna wanted to read the yearling because we were going to marjorie kinnan rawling's house, but that book is way too long, so we read this one instead. not great, but visiting her house in northern florida was really cool and we got the tour from a genuine florida cracker!
Maybe a 4.5 for me: lyrical story with beautifully done illustrations. As with all the Dillons' works, there is more than first meets the eye with these images (fish motifs in the trees, faces on the trees, etc.). I'd like to read the older version of this tale, but this newer one is gorgeous. And Rawlings can write....
May 17, 2011 Hilary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magical folktale with beautiful illustrations. This rerelease won the Newbery Honor in 1956 for Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and should be a strong contender for the Caldecott Medal. Leo and Diane Dillon's illustrations are enchanting and hold their own secrets.
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Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was an American author who lived in rural Florida and wrote novels with rural themes and settings. Her best known work, The Yearling, about a boy who adopts an orphaned fawn, won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1939 and was later made into a movie of the same title, The Yearling. The book was written long before the concept of young-adult fiction, but is now commonly inclu ...more
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