Book Club: On The River

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Author: Roland Harvey
ISBN: 978-1-76011-245-5
RRP: $24.99

On The River is a delightful picture book with a target audience of 5-10yr olds about the Murray River. My audience was much younger than that and he couldn’t concentrate on the story but had a wonderful time checking out the pictures and seeing what we could see.


Written and illustrated by Roland Harvey, one of Australia’s best-loved illustrators, On The River is both educational and entertaining. The illustrations take up most of the page and with a young audience that is always a good thing. The pictures are vibrant and colourful with lots of hidden gems to search out on each page.

The Murray River is an essential element of life for many people across thousands of kilometres and the river boasts a fascinating ecosystem. The Murray is important to graziers, food growers, communities, flora and fauna and it’s a system that most of us probably take for granted. You don’t think too deeply about it, it’s just there and it always will be… but if we don’t look after these vitally important ecosystems they won’t always be there. The best way to start looking after them is to educate on their importance and if we educate the children that are set to inherit then we can ensure that they always know the importance.

The Murray is such a massive river, from it’s top to the Murray mouth, forming part of the NSW/Victorian border and steeped in glorious history.

on the river

Roland takes us on a journey as he travels from the top at the headwaters, through many a small riverside town, showing us what may be found and all the ways that the river is utilised, right on through to the Murray Mouth.

We see waterskiing, canoes, cricket, walking, fishing, paddle-steamers, windsurfers, houseboats and a glorious range of native animals. Roland briefly educates on the ecology, the history and the wildlife of the mighty Murray River. There is also a short note from the Murray to the Darling about how to look after river health.

The tone of the story is light and witty, with both text and pictures that will engage audiences of every age.

For those who are really into the history and learning all they can, the front and back inner covers are a mudmap with HEAPS of information. Exciting and important places, information and tidbits of interesting trivia. I really want to put some little snippets here but … I’m not going to.

On The River is an engaging and interesting look at the Murray River that is sure to entertain audiences young and old. I intend to read it with my other children tomorrow.

You can keep up to date with Roland Harvey over at RolandHarvey.com.au.

On The River is available through Allen & Unwin from June 22nd, also Angus and Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

20 thoughts on “Book Club: On The River

  1. On The River is a well detailed child books about The Murray River. A journey from the top showing us along the rivers , also giving us creatures, flora and fauna, wild life , small towns, and other information as we go.

    We go on adventures on paddle steamers, see some interesting fish, * which ones to keep and which ones to throw back,** Go canoeing and are shown the right and wrong way to do this .. ** giggles ** the pictures were very amusing !

    My ten year old daughter and I read this after dinner. It kept her engaged, lost at times, but she certainly enjoyed the light and witty little antics at the bottom of the pages.

    Her feedback after we read the book together was that she found the pictures quiet buzy at times, but enjoyed the colouring as she said it matched the aussie outback.

    As she is not educated on the Murray river she found the wildlife and other information among the pages funny and interesting. Some words a little confusing. But otherwise she really enjoyed the story and pictures and overall story line.

    The story did give the reader insight into the Murray river. How it involves not only farmers, its huge array of plants and animals and how unique this river is all to all who live nearby and within its environment. A rather expanse of area with history and information.

    For all those wanting more information , this author has also given us little pointers on how to look after the ecosystem. As added bonus which also provided in depth information was the maps and information on the inside and last pages. This I found very helpful, new and intriguing. As an adult I certainly sat for a bit after my daughter and I had read it and scoped out the information. It is very buzy but very well delivered.

    The author has done his work with this book, giving it an entertaining feel, a giggle or two escaped mini me while reading. She especially loved the cute little pics at the bottom of the pages and has eagerly shelved this book in her bookcase to keep.

    I feel this book is best for children over the ages of ten. With a fair bit of history, informative information, it gives us insight into the Murray River. Its ecosystem, and I have to say I certainly learnt a thing or two myself.

    Delightful, informative and well illustrated.

    Reviewed by Summer and Katrina 😀

    Thanks to Allen and Unwin for supplying this book to Beauty and Lace for review.

  2. On the River by Roland Harvey is a
    beautifully illustrated and cleverly comical picture book, which my American born nephews aged 6 and 10 really enjoyed, (And it gave them a nice taste of the Aussie landscape).
    Based on their reactions, I suggest that older children will be entertained as they learn new facts about the Murray River and its environs, brought to life visually through the clever and humourously detailed sketches, whilst younger children will delight in the cheeky fun of the drawings. ( the bumboat and description drew great peels of laughter!!)
    Together both older and younger readers will enjoy searching the pages for the creatures and activities identified in the factual but also very quirky text…

  3. My 11 year-old daughter and I read On The River by Roland Harvey today.
    I also plan to read this book with my other two children, aged 6 and 8, but if I’m honest, I think this book is suitable for those in a higher age bracket, just because the storyline is a little complex and the younger ones may lose interest.
    Personally, I found this book so interesting!!!
    I love nature, and I thoroughly enjoy books like this that raise awareness of the importance of looking after our land (and our animals).
    My daughter and I think that Roland’s illustrations are fantastic. They are detailed, and send important messages within them too. For example, on one of the pages, Roland has drawn a turtle which appears to be gagging on a beer can that has been dumped in the Murray River. Thus raising awareness about littering, and the ramifications it can have on our waterways and ecosystems.
    There were some really interesting facts that we both learnt. We have holidayed near the Murray in the past, but if we do so again, I will definitely look at it in a new light, as I have more respect and interest in it after reading this book and learning about its history.
    I was pleased to see the list of Roland’s other books on the back cover, as I would love to read these aswell.

  4. My 7 year old ‘Ruby’ and I read this briefly last night but she wanted to have another read tonight with her younger brother because we’ve camped along the Murray in the past. So tonight we read it again with my son who is 5 and he loved it! We got a little side tracked remembering our camping trip and starting to plan another and this continued on as we were reading 🙂

    The story takes us on a journey down the Murray River from the mountains to the sea. Along the way we learn some interesting facts and to be honest I learnt some new facts I didn’t know myself.

    Ruby found it easy to read and only needed help with a few words.
    She loved the illustrations and said she could look at them for ages because there is so much going on…My 5 years old liked the people with their bums out and thought it was hilarious! They both enjoyed finding Ronald Harvey on each page – like a Where’s Wally book.
    Ruby is bringing this book in for show and tell next week and I’m sure her teacher will love it too.

    Ruby liked how the back page had a Thank You to Mannum Primary school as we’ve been there numerous times and had a look around the school at one stage too.

    This was a fantastic read and we all thoroughly enjoyed it! It was educational and I feel suits all ages.

    Thanks Beauty & Lace + Allen & Unwin for this wonderful review.

  5. The kids a myself enjoyed reading On The River very very much was even more special for us as last year we did a caravanning holiday along the Mighty Murray River, the girls could relate to a lot in the book especially do not throw the cod fish back into the river a fisherman we met explained this problem fish to the girls , but we also learnt from the book the fragile river system and how we must protect it, the illustrations were brilliant and amusing the author has done such a great job with this book, I personally think children of all ages and adults will throughly enjoy reading this book,
    Thank you for allowing myself and family to read this book

  6. On The River by Roland Harvey is a lovely illustrated children’s book about the Murray River.

    The Murray River was a big part of my childhood. Both my father and brother worked as fisherman on the Coorong, plus a Ferry operator on the River. We also lived on the River for many years growing up.

    Seeing when the river was very low and polluted was very concerning, so I like how this book teaches children in a simple way of the importance of the River to both people and nature.

    The book is great for all ages, the short story is easy to read to younger children yet it holds lots of educational material for the older age group. The illustrations have so much details that my school age children could ask questions and learn about the history and uses of the River.

    Thank You Beauty and Lace and Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to share this story with my children. I will look out for more of Roland Harvey’s books and happy to recommend!

  7. On the River is an absolutely stunning childrens book.

    My 10 year old son was happy to read this by himself & was able to give me a great recap of what it was about. He especially liked the detailed illustrations and spent quite an amount of time pouring over all the pages.

    He is now super keen on learning how to canoe and wants to go fishing for his birthday !! a bit of a departure to laser tag… I am not complaining 🙂 lol

    Since his first reading he has happily read it again and discovered new part of the story to discuss with me. I am absolutely thrilled with the educational component of this book and plan to follow up with some more of Roland Harveys books. Thanks so much for the opportunity to review.. I would absolutely recommend these books!

  8. Roland Harvey’s family adventure series has included trips to the beach, bush and farm. His latest picture book, On The River is set on Australia’s Murray River. It’s a story that will engage adults and children alike thanks to its light and whimsical text, colourful watercolour illustrations and rather detailed and informative facts.

    This book includes appearances by Banjo Patterson and Ned Kelly but perhaps the most intriguing character of all is Harvey himself. He is joined by a pelican friend and can be found on every page in the book in a kind of homage to Where’s Wally? On The River is like three books in one, you can have fun finding Harvey, enjoy learning about the Murray River and you can laugh at Harvey’s cheeky sense of humour. Kids will love this loveable larrikin and his talk of bumboats and the like.

    On The River may be a story aimed at children aged five to 10 years but in all honesty this bracket could be extended by around 100 years because all sorts of readers can enjoy this book. This story about the fragile Murray ecosystem as well as is secrets, wildlife, history, people and ecology is all really captivating. Harvey’s delicate illustrations are wonderful and the story is a precious gem because it sums up how important the Murray River is and how crucial it is for us to conserve and maintain its environmental beauty.

  9. On The River is a unique, beautifully illustrated & engaging book set on The Murray River. Roland Harvey has done a wonderful job creating an Australian influenced book for primary school aged children, with opportunities for fun, learning & building vocabulary.

    My 7 year old son & 9 year old daughter both enjoyed On The River but my 7 year old found some of the words a little tricky for self-reading. It was a good opportunity for us to look together & sound out some new words for him to learn. They both liked looking for “Harvey” on every page & found something new to look at & read for the second & third time they picked up the book.

    I would recommend On The River, we loved it & you will too!

  10. This book On the River, is a brilliant story. It is beautifully illustrated with so many little details that my daughter had fun looking at all the different things on each page. it is a beautiful book describing the many parts of the Murray River including so many historical, tourism and ecological facts. There’s just so any things that you can read this again and again and take out many different things and explore further what has been told on each page.

    It’s always wonderful to read these amazing Australian books to my daughter, especially of places where we could easily visit by car.

  11. Such a great book my Grandson loved it found it fascinating & told him heaps about the Murray river which I am informed he relayed to his class at school.
    I also enjoyed the book it also told me things I didn’t know about this Mighty Murray.
    The illustrations were so good & very clever so as to keep the attention of certain age groups.
    This is the kind of book I would like to see in schools very educational but fun I can certainly recommend it.

  12. lots to learn in this book both my children loved the factual content and the illustrations- book would be great for a project and or camping trip, fab to find book that are entertaining about our country
    thanks B and L

  13. “On the River” is a children’s book, recommended for ages 5 -10 years. I think it’s better suited for a slightly older age group. I tested this on three kids – a 3 year old was bored silly. On the other hand, half way through Master 6 years spontaneously said “This is so interesting!”, and Master 8 wanted to know if we could read it again later since he’d had far too many questions to be answered first time round. It seemed to hit the mark far more strongly with Master 8 than Master 6; he was the one who wanted to read it again immediately.

    This isn’t a storybook. It’s more a connected series of short scenes. I think that’s why it lost Miss 3 – there wasn’t a story or characters for her to get interested in. On the other hand, the older two were really interested in the ideas and questions being thrown up, and were keen to ask for more detail and information, and look closely at the detailed pictures.

    I wouldn’t read this at bedtime – there’s just too much to discuss in it, and they’ll be up till midnight. It is however a great book for sitting down with in the afternoon when you’ve got a bit more time to talk as you go.

    This is a really clever, interesting book, particularly if you want to introduce your kids to concepts around looking after the environment, or Australian history. It doesn’t talk down to kids, but at the same time it’s simple enough for them to grasp most of the ideas first time around. The older kids and I enjoyed it, and we’ll enjoy going through it again to explore some pages and ideas in more detail. It’s a book with the potential to be revisited quite a number of times, I suspect.

  14. Thank you for the opportunity to review “On The River”.

    I read the book with my Grandson who is almost 5 and I definitely agree with other’s comments that this book is suited to an older age group than the suggested 5 to 10 years. The exception to this would be those younger children who are already familiar with the Murray River and can relate to the places talked about.

    My Grandson initially was interested in finding Roland Harvey on each page, and loved the idea of a bumboat (“I like bums”, giggle giggle) but quickly tired of the book as there was no “storyline” as such and the concepts were beyond him, even after I tried just talking about what was on each page, and not reading the actual text.

    I think the book is a great way to introduce older children to our great river (perhaps 7 and above where their reading skills have improved and they can understand the little sidelines and comedic comments at the bottom of the page and within the drawings), and the importance of looking after it.

    I note that on the acknowledgement and catalogue page there is a direction to the Allen and Unwin page for accompanying Teachers Notes which would be an excellent resource for bringing the book more to life.

    I look forward to taking my Grandson to experience some of the places mentioned within the book and then using the book to engender discussion about those places when he is a little older.

  15. “On the River” by Roland Harvey was a lovely book that both my 11 year old and 10 year old enjoyed. I read it to both of them after dinner, during reading time and it bought out lots of questions and curiosity between them.
    With so much details and illustrations in the book, there is a lot to discover and discuss which takes this book a longer time to read. My 10 year old wouldn’t turn the page till she found Roland and the pelican which frustrated the eldest but we did get through it and enjoyed it thoroughly!
    They were both very interested in the workings of the Murray and could relate some things they had learnt at school, the youngest took the book to show her teacher.

  16. On the River by Roland Harvey is a facinating book, filled with lots of illustrations and factual information about the Murry River. This story is both engaging to adult whom are reading the book and children as well, making the information serious but silly at just the right moment. The illustrations are very well done and thought out.
    My child Lilly and I are thankful for the opportunity to read the book and we loved it!
    This book is extreamly unique and beautiful. Lilly really engaged in reading this book and enjoyed it witch is a very good thing because she usually has a very short attention span but this book kept her engaged and paying attention.
    Thank you beauty and lace for letting me review this book, it was an amazing experience.

  17. I was very excited to be selected to read and review “On the River” by Roland Harvey to my 5 year old son.

    He’s very interested in books and he’s starting to read very basic books and he especially loves our night time ritual of a bed time story.

    I also agree with the other reviewers, this story is probably suited for a slightly older age group. My son loved looking at the detailed illustrations but found it hard to concentrate on the story at hand. He did enjoy looking for Roland on each page, it reminded him of “Where’s Wally” books. The illustrations are so detailed and we quite enjoyed discussing the little activities and spotting funny little goings on, intermingled with the story about the Murray River.

    I think give him a few more years and he will get more from this wonderful, informative book about the history Murray River. It was a nice touch that it included a message about treating your environment respectfully.

    “On the River” is a beautifully illustrated book and I have really appreciated the opportunity to share this with my son.

  18. On The River by Roland Harvey is beautifully illustrated book set on Australi’as Murray River. I read this book with my nephew , Master James , 5. We read it over three sittings. We both loved the story, although I’m sure I got more out of it that he did. It is definitely a book we can and will revisit on many occasions as he is growing up as it is very educational. He absolutely loved the Where’s Harvey aspect and every time we turned the page had to find him before we could continue reading.
    I loved this book so much I have already bought a couple of copies to give as birthday gifts to my friends’ children.
    Thank you Beauty & Lace and Allen & Unwin for giving me the opportunity to enjoy this book with my nephew.

  19. What a wonderful book! Growing up on the Murray as a child, this book brought back so many wonderful memories. Not only is the story a lovely one to tell my 5, 8 and 10 year old but the extra information captured the attention of my 12 year old daughter. The kids loved looking for Roland on each page which made this book even more interactive.

    For me, the detail in the drawings was wonderful, and truely captured the essence of the Murray river.

    We have read and reread this book many times already and can see this book being ‘worn out’ with each child getting something different out of it time and time again.

  20. My 3 year old enjoyed reading this book, he loved all the pictures and illustrations in the book but he got a bit bored considering it’s a long book and he prefers to read whole book in one go.
    I can understand that this book caters for a bit older audience but it’s a nice book about Murray river and different activities enjoyed by people by the river. Me and my son both liked the little twist to find Roland on each page.
    I particularly enjoyed the detailed illustrations that are great to engage kids and to support their imagination.
    Overall it’s a nice book to have anyone familiar with Australian culture

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