Author: Trace Balla
ISBN: 978 174 331 633 7
Guest Blog Author: Eva Jarvoll
Trace Balla’s 2014 children’s graphic novel ‘Rivertime’ provides a charming view of the minutiae of outdoor adventuring and the Australian wilderness. In a time where the disconnect between human and nature has reached a concerning peak, ‘Rivertime’ shows the value in reconnecting and slowing down to nature’s pace.
The story follows the journey of Clancy, a 10 year old city kid, and his uncle, Uncle Egg, as they travel along the Glenelg River on a 10-day canoeing trip. Clancy begins as a reluctant first-time adventurer, with concerns about how he could manage his usual hobbies like building mini cities or watching TV while on the canoe. But with the gentle encouragement of his Uncle, Clancy’s eyes are opened to the magic of nature.
The magic of nature is beautifully captured by Balla’s intricate representations of Australian landscapes, flora and fauna. Great care has been taken to include illustrations of local species, which have been annotated with species names, sounds, and other delightful details. Elements of Indigenous culture have also been subtly woven throughout, including campfire stories and weaving lessons from the local people (the Gunditjmara and Boandik people), Clancy’s observations of the snake-like form of the river alluding to the Rainbow Serpent, and Uncle Egg’s identification of the Big Emu, a celestial form perceived by Aboriginal astronomers.
At one point in the story, Uncle Egg stops paddling and makes the observation that it must be rivertime… “You know that gap between breathing in and out… it’s like that with the tide in this river. There’s a time between tides when it’s completely still”. Rather than paddle without the help of the flowing river, Uncle Egg uses the time as a chance to rest. The concept of rivertime presents an entire way of living, in tune with the flow of nature: waking when the birds wake, going to sleep when the mozzies come out. A way of living that should be more of a focus in today’s frenetic world.