Ten great rivers (well, 11, but two are kissing cousins)—and not just the obvious ones—give Peters a chance to fashion 10 fine stories.
The rivers are the Tigris and Euphrates, Nile, Rhine, Amazon, Zambezi, Thames, Mississippi, Ganges, Yangtze, and Awash (which, by the way, is the second largest river in Ethiopia); each has much on offer for good storytelling. Peters keeps the narrative accessible and lively—there are lots of boxed items and much shifting of gears. Rivers tell us much about ourselves (between their banks lies the cradle of civilization, after all), and Peters freely ranges to tap all their mystery and social import: piracy, great aqueducts, Hammurabi’s Code, the birth of jazz, pilgrimages, diseases, colonial malfeasance, poisonous caterpillars. She also cautions that as much as rivers promise, they are fickle creatures. Take the great Harappan Empire on the Indus River. The Harappan Empire? What Harappan Empire? Exactly. Numerous photographs, both contemporary and archival, allow for an intimacy with each river, and where there is no photographic evidence (as with the pharaohs and early-19th-century mudlarks along the Thames, for instance), Rosen obligingly paints the picture in striking colors. More captions would have been helpful, as would identifying which was the Euphrates and which the Tigris on the map of their courses—small grouses in an otherwise crack effort.
A well-turned, involving introduction to important waterways on six of the seven continents. (Nonfiction. 9-12)