Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Based on the recommendation by Un-lic-ed, I suggested to my book club that we read The Secret River when it was my turn to host the discussion in February. To give my friends a taste of Down Under, I served some Melba toast with cheese and precious imported vegemite, veggie cottage pie, damper, and some mini pavlovas for dessert. We began the discussion by contrasting the world-view of hunter-gatherers versus agriculturalists.
This discussion also brought up stories of the Irish Travellers (also known as Minceir or Pavees, or an Lucht Siuil), with some members of the club demonstrating their knowledge and fluency in Irish. We decided that owning land was so important to William because in England, it is this characteristic that distinguishes the gentry from the commoners.
The group was divided over whether or not Sal and William were happy with their lot in the end. In 1806 William Thornhill, an illiterate English bargeman and a man of quick temper but deep compassion, steals a load of wood and, as a part of his lenient sentence, is deported, along with his beloved wife, Sal, to the New South Wales colony in what would become Australia.
I was just wondering about the name of the woman that Dick Thornhill wanted to have realtionship with?
There are no fish left in the rivers and streams; hard times have come to the forest, and everyone is poor and hungry. Gr 3-5–Rawlings penned what she called a “child’s story” in 1947 to accompany paintings by Robert Camp.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1896-1953) is the celebrated American author of The Yearling, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1939.
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Get relationship help, parenting advice, healthy recipes, and tips for living a happy life from our author experts. Get access to the best in romance: free reads, specially priced offers, and exclusive content! The damper was a bit of a disaster (over-salted and under-cooked), and no one else appreciated the vegemite, but the rest of the meal seemed to go down well, especially as it was accompanied by gifts of Australian wines, caramels, chips, and chocolates.

A hunter-gatherer may have time for leisure when the season is right, but in early colonial Australia an agriculturalist must work from dawn to dust. Nomaic people such as these often set up halting (caravan) sites on common lands or private plots. This seems laughable to us now, with our easy access to the world’s information at our fingertips, but for those that had spent their whole lives by the Thames, what else did they know? Throughout the 20th century up to the 1970s, children were forcibly removed from their families by the church and the government.
The Secret River is the tale of William and Sal’s deep love for their small, exotic corner of the new world, and William’s gradual realization that if he wants to make a home for his family, he must forcibly take the land from the people who came before him. A depression era story that is just as timely as it is enchanting, this is a stunning picture book for the ages. Found in her papers after her death, The Secret River was finally published in 1955; it posthumously received a 1956 Newbery Honor.
A hunter-gatherer sees themselves and the land as one entity, and does not recognise fences or boundaries – if they were to take ears of corn from a field, they see their task as simply gathering food as they have done for 40 millennia. How do we reconcile the rights of those of us who believe that we own these particular squares of land with those who have been travelling freely for generations?
Acclaimed around the world, The Secret River is a magnificent, transporting work of historical fiction. Calpurnia's father's fish-selling business is failing, so she goes to Madame Albirtha, "the wisest person in the forest," for advice. Mother Albirtha, the wisewoman, advises her to follow her nose to a secret river teeming with fish.
Originally illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, the 55-page story followed young Calpurnia and her ever-constant puppy, Buggy-horse, on a self-determined expedition to “turn hard times into soft times.” Spurred on by Mother Albirtha, a wise woman of the forest, the girl and her dog find a fish-filled river and, with the help of a red boat and the pink paper roses tied to Calpurnia’s pigtails, bring in a giant catch and cleverly devise a way to get the fish back home. However, it wasn’t until 2008 that the government formally apologised for these actions. She finds this amazing river and politely asks the fishes’ permission to catch some of them. With her little dog Buggy Horse and a tip from old Mother Albirtha, the wisest person in the forest, Calpurnia finds a secret river and uses the pink paper roses from her hair to catch enough beautiful catfish to feed the whole swamp land —with some left over for Daddy to sell.
Sensitive, cheerful, and full of courage, Calpurnia survives every threat, brings home her prize, feeds the town--and discovers an unexpected facet of Madame Albirtha's wisdom.

On her long journey home she shares her catch with several animals and, of course, Mother Albirtha.
Illuminated by the Dillons’ exquisite artwork, the tale accentuates the enchantment of Calpurnia’s journey. Mesmerizing patterns and colors distinguish the Dillons' spreads, which balance large, captivating panels with smaller vignettes clustered around the text. Father sells the fish for promises of payment, which are all fulfilled, and soft times come to the entire community. Brilliantly composed images, where the young girl’s face is at times superimposed over objects in the story or seemingly floats over the magical river, have a lustrous glow. Beautiful in all ways that a book can be beautiful, this unforgettable picture book is a classic in the making. Their acrylics are a foray into magical realism (when Calpurnia invents a poem about befriending bees, her hair becomes a tangle of purple flowers thick with the insects), and their portraits are always true to Rawlings's imaginings. In this reworking of a classic tale, Rawlings’ voice is warm and tender, employing lilting syntax and descriptive language that resonates with warmth and humor.
Imagined in striking scenes, Calpurnia and Buggy-horse’s encounters with an owl, a bear, and a panther effectively capture the Florida back country that Rawlings famously drew upon in her writings. In Australia, the concept of terra nullius was not overturned until the Aboriginal rights case of Mabo in 1992. At the breakfast table, Calpurnia’s father says hard times have come, especially for poor people.
Calpurnia is a sweet delight, at once poet and adventuress, whimsical and practical, filled with love and compassion. The Dillons’ glorious, glowing earth-toned acrylic illustrations capture Calpurnia’s spirit and soul and imbue the tale with images that are nothing short of breathtaking. Overriding the adventure is the determination and spirited effort of the child to help her family in need. So with the advice of a wise soothsayer, Mother Albirtha, Calpurnia dares to venture out into a dark forest and follows her nose to find a secret river, where she catches fish and brings them home.

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