This story follows Sylvan the water vole from his early days in the burrow with his mother, brother and two sisters. Very quickly it is clear that danger is everywhere as the outside is “full of weasels and owls and things that want to eat us”.
However these are dangers they can deal with, but a new danger arrives, “I hear whispers of a new enemy, a black creature, more vicious than the others.” This danger leaves the young motherless, and Sylvan, as the oldest, has a new found responsibility. “Yesterday life had been a game. Now he was a small, scared vole, huddled in a burrow, responsible for his siblings. And tomorrow they would have to fight or be driven from their home and into the unknown.”
This forces Sylvan to lead his family downstream, past other dangers. “Somewhere downstream was a home for them, he was sure of it. It was his job to get them there.”
Overall it has a plot similar to Watership Down, except it is about voles, or river singers as they are also known. This doesn’t matter too much of course. The fact that voles, minks, otters, herons etc. feature in the book gives children the ideal chance to learn a little more about these creatures in a fiction setting, a much easier environment to learn in my opinion than non-fiction texts. There is a little death along the way so your child will have to be able to deal with that, but if so this is a little gem of a book.
Amazon UK link: The River Singers
Publication date: 3 Oct 2013