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Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite
The Way of the River: Kellandale Wood (Book One) by Shan L. Spyker is surefooted in its message with a plot that will endear itself not only to young readers but to adults as well. Siblings Elinora Wolton, 15, and her younger sister, Tillie, 14, live in a country called Eldmoor, on a landed estate known as Kellandale. Her cousins, along with her Aunt Camille, will be staying with them until her father and her uncle finish the completion of the community school. Life is pretty normal for the two siblings, except that they are forbidden to venture into Kellandale Wood, which everyone believes to be bewitched. But when they witness a sack being thrown into the river, they itch to investigate and break the long-standing admonition not to enter the woods. Inside the sack is a wolfhound pup that they rescue and name Henry. Elinora and Tillie discover that Kellandale Wood is indeed bewitched but in a positive and enchanting way, as it allows them to communicate with Henry and other woodland creatures.
Shan L. Spyker is so precise and simple with the characters in that she writes them with clear motivations that are reflected in what they say, and it does not complicate the message about our relationship with nature. Reading The Way of the River has transported me to my grade school age again. Creating a fictional country and combining it with spectacular sensory details, the story manages to create its own space that you can actually inhabit. It is the kind of setting that can pop up in your imagination. Elinora and Tillie both have childish spunk that is both appealing and relatable to young readers. In every way, this quietly majestic tale should be read not only for its message but because it is a triumph of good storytelling.