Book Club: I Love the River by Maya Christina Gonzales

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Book Club is a series dedicated to extending the reading experience either through an activity. Activities will tie in with other areas of study or cross over subjects. 

Today we’ll be looking at art style. Maya Christina Gonzales is a phenomenal author and illustrator that you should know about. She and her husband run Reflection Press which publishes diverse stories that promote equality, peace, and freedom. The website has some sobering and incredibly important statistics about the state of children’s publishing and while this is only tangentially related to the activity in this post, I encourage you to check them out and reflect on what that means for you as a parents, educator, and consumer. 

I Know the River Loves MeWe were particularly drawn to her book I Know the River Loves me when we ran across it on display in our library. The white space and bold illustrations with bright, vibrant colors were really inviting.  On picking it up I discovered it was written with the Yuba river in mind, which is near where we live and somewhere we’ve been. The story of the connection between the little girl, nature, the river, and the seasons was especially appealing. The activity below is how we used the book to extend the learning experience. 

What You’ll Need:

  • Paper (drawing paper, scrap paper, whatever is around the house)
  • thin markers or Sharpies
  • I Know the River Loves Me written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzales

Together read the book I Know the River Loves Me written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzales. Pay particular attention to the art style as you read. Point out colors, patterns, and lines. While the illustrations appear simple, they are incredibly beautiful and impactful.  

When you are finished reading get out your art supplies. Together you can think of pieces of nature that speak to you. for the drawing prompt we filled in the sentence “I know the ________ loves me.” Maybe it’s mountains. Maybe it’s a river like the little girl in the book. Maybe it’s clouds, the sun, or the rain. Using simple shapes and lines draw an outline of that thing. Then fill the shapes in with swirls, colors, dots, and waves just as Gonzales does. Flip through the book and study the pictures as you draw. 

Here is a glimpse of how Gonzales uses lines and patterns to embellish her illustrations.

Here is a glimpse of how Gonzales uses lines and patterns to embellish her illustrations.

Not only does this encourage your child to look closely at the art in the picture book, but it also helps them draw connections between their own lives and experiences and the story. Take it a step further and get outside! Is there are creek nearby that you can walk to? A hike you can go on together? Or a park to visit? The point is not to find a secluded nature area, but to find a natural space that can welcome you. If you have a pad of paper and a bag to pack up your markers, head over there to draw what you see using patterns like Gonzales.

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