Inspired in part by his own childhood, this gorgeous picture book from Jim LaMarche tells the story of one stubborn boy’s unexpectedly wonderful summer on the river.  This is an imagination-sparking story about appreciating the simple, natural joys of the world and the people in it.  It is also about discovering and exploring one’s own talents. 

This lesson is an opportunity to celebrate special memories of our own  lives with our children.  Our most valuable family possessions are the shared experiences and memories that link our hearts together.   Before your family begins to experience this beautiful story, I have a suggestion.  Create a personal Memory Box of photos, mementos, letters and other personal artifacts.  My hope is that your  Memory Box will provide many intimate moments sharing stories with your children.




“Jim LaMarche builds on childhood memories for this magical tale of artistic awakening.”


Jim LaMarche


“There’s nobody to play with,” I complained. “She doesn’t even have a TV.”

Dad grinned. “Well, she’s not your normal kind of grandma, I guess,” he said. “Calls herself a river rat.” He chuckled. “But I promise, she’ll find plenty for you to do. And you know I can’t take you with me this summer, Nicky. There’ll be no kids there, and I’ll be spending all my time at the plant.”

I felt tears starting again, but I blinked hard and looked out the window.”


Young Nicky’s resentment at having to spend all summer out in the country with Grandma changes to wonder when he finds a raft on the nearby river—a raft that is not only decorated with mysterious animal portraits, but seems, somehow, to attract wildlife.


The author depicts his spectacled youngster floating through soft focus but in exquisitely realistic natural scenes.   Sometimes he’s alone, sometimes with Grandma, accompanied by flights of accurately rendered songbirds and other forest or river creatures seemingly as curious about—and as unafraid of him as he of them.

At summer’s end, he paints a picture of his own on the raft, after rescuing a fawn trapped on a muddy bank, and admits that he’s become, like Grandma, a “river rat.” “The text’s dreamy pace reflects both the river’s gently rippling serenity and Nicky’s deepening appreciation for the natural marvels he witnesses. ”   Kirkus Review




Family Activity
Sharing Your Memory Box 

  • Parents,  sit down and share your “Memory Box”with your children.   Just for fun, you might ask them to guess what kinds of things might be in your box.  

  • Let your children select one or two things from your box.  Save the rest for another time. Tell them your story about each item.  

  • I promise, your children will love your stories and will want more of your “Memory Box” stories.


If your family enjoyed “The Raft”……

I would like to suggest another tender book about a young boy’s relationship with his grandmother.  It is a small chapter book best read aloud to your elementary age children.  It is one of my favorites.

The Remembering Box is a story set in the 1940s about the close relationship between a young boy and his grandmother. Joshua spends every Friday night and every Saturday with his grandmother, celebrating the Jewish Sabbath. On Friday night, Grandma blesses the Sabbath lights, and the two share a traditional meal. On Saturday afternoon, they settle down with a box they call “the remembering box.” Joshua draws an item from the box, and Grandma tells its story. And what wonderful stories they are!  The story ends with Joshua’s grandma passing away, leaving him to carry on the tradition of the remembering box.