This post is participating in #KidBookBingo organised and hosted by @AnnalieseAvery on Twitter. Every day there is an opportunity to post a review of the book of the day.
Have you seen the discussions and questions online where many Americans on the Internet in recent years have their mind blown by British eccentricities but most particularly the fact we usually have the hot and cold taps separate instead of in a merging tap as standard?
Here Jacob Sager-Weinstein’s Imagination runs with this concept into the fun with a bit of silly magical adventure that is The City Of Secret Rivers.
This is not the first book to explore the Rivers of London as a source of magical energy affecting the sprawling metropolis of London, Aaronovitch does it masterfully in his series, but Weinstein here is aiming as a older children’s novel a fun frolic through familiar and fantastical parts of London
Hyacinth has just moved to London with her rather surreal mother who talks about growing up in Hampstead surrounded by green fields and sheep.
The act of adapting her new taps to mix the water in the taps rather than in the sink sets off a sequence of events involving towels, monster postmen, sewers, umbrellas and the Circle Lane, little boys and printing presses, a porcine in a bathing suit, toshers (treasure hunters), a Royal Mail Sorting office, Monument, the former site of Newgate Prison and a Steam era sewage processing plant.
No spoilers as to how that all links together other than the concept that the Rivers of London are magical and events in History often revolve around attempts to control or release the power of said magic and our Hyacinth is somehow essential to sorting things out.
Much is left dangling for us to ponder but Weinstein isn’t going to play all his cards at once because there are several subplots or questions set up for future novels.
However, this doesn’t detract from the story but it does expect a level of investment by the reader in the plot especially towards the end where the urgency of the action requires us to trust the motivations and investments of the characters slightly.
I like the style of writing, it’s much more chattier and haughty than some children’s fantasy novels but this is to its credit, it helps the more reluctant reader to engage in a less formal tone and offers a playful tone for more established readers.
This is such a fun book to share and plenty of potential discussion from this book to study or inspire a project with plenty of Historical events, architecture and personalities referenced across the novel to investigate and if using a map of London is opportunity to track Hyacinth’s journey through London and for those able to visit the city itself they could try and visit some of the landmarks referenced throughout- although it should go without saying but please don’t go in the sewers though it’s gross.
The City Of Secret Rivers by Jacob Sager-Weinstein is published by Walker Books and available online and from good bookstores: