Wind in the Willows meets Watership Down: THE RIVER SINGERS by Tom Moorhouse

Whilst having some adventures down in Salcombe this summer (namely swimming in secret coves and snooping behind hidden doors), Moontrug stumbled across a book that critics, bloggers and children have been praising for months: Tom Moorhouse’s The River Singers. Heralded as the new Wind in the Willows or Watership Down, Moorhouse (with his background in Zoology – which mostly involves being bitten by wildlife) has created a riverside world of water voles, otters, herons and rats.

river singers

‘Something was approaching the burrow. Something deadly. Something that made Sylva’s fur bristle with fear.’ When a predator attacks in the dead of night, Sylvan narrowly escapes with his life. But with his mother now missing and the burrow left unprotected, he knows he can’t stay safe for long. Together with his brother and sisters, Sylvan sets out on a dangerous journey to find a new home. But enemies are lurking everywhere and soon they will face the greatest test of all…

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From the first sentence Moorhouse brings the water voles’ landscape to life. The Sinethis, the Great River at the heart of Sylvan’s world, is beautifully described: ‘She sings with a song as soft as thistles, hard as roots, deep as shadows, old as stones’ and Moontrug loved the way Sylvan learnt to read its rhythms: ‘Words threaded their way through the Great River’s music. It is danger.’ The water voles’ lives are fraught with danger and Moorhouse captures their fear brilliantly: ‘The terror came in the night. It came with swiftness. It came with teeth.’ His writing is full of drama and suspense whenever predators are lurking near and these moments of tension propel the plot forward with relentless energy. But alongside violent predators, Moorhouse gives us a wonderfully funny set of water vole characters: ‘I still don’t think that spending a night with a potentially violent rat is a good idea.’ And Aven, Sylvan’s sister, is awesome in her punchy treatment of Mistress Lily: ‘As you pointed out, I am quite small. But I am also exceptionally vicious.’

photo2This is not a dead water vole; it is passed out one (thanks to Fodur)

Moontrug loved the values Moorhouse places at the centre of his book: friendship, family, hope and bravery – and Sylvan’s character growth from headstrong youth to faithful leader is fantastically done: ‘If what I asked is not your way then give me the strength to fight.’ The River Singers is, as author Lauren St John says ‘a hymn to nature, written with compassion and flair’ and Moontrug has got a feeling readers of 8+ years are going to love the sequel (out now), The Rising, just as much as this…