Chen Li and the River Spirit

By Anthony Holcroft,
illustrated by Lyn Kriegler

Hodder & Stoughton: Auckland NZ & London UK, 1990

ISBN 0340533145

A rich merchant, living in a valley devastated by floods, meets a river spirit while out walking on a bare hillside. She shows him a vision of the valley as it once was, and of how it could be again, and leaves him with a gift — a handful of seeds ...

Chen Li and the River Spirit is a gentle yet powerfully inspiring story of the strength of dreams. It is a story of hardship, sorrow and endurance, and of a faithfulness strangely rewarded. A compelling and beautifully illustrated fable-like tale for 7 to 10 year olds.

Reader comment

“Holcroft is as much poet as storyteller. His economy of words and exactness of language invest his narrative with powerful feeling without becoming sentimental. Like traditional tellers of tales he explores profound universal dilemmas, Chen Li’s single-mindedness exerts its toll. Children will grow in understanding as they read this story, not only of the fragile environment we live in but of the complexity of human aspirations.”

Betty Gilderdale, NZ Herald (9 March 1991)

Chen Li and the River Spirit is a delightful book for seven to ten years old. The charming fairy tale is a rich and satisfying story in itself, beautifully and lyrically written, but the book has a lot to offer on several different levels as well … [It] has gloriously colourful illustrations by Lyn Kriegler, enough to enchant children who may believe they have outgrown picture books.”

Stephanie Edmond, New Zealand Books (July 1991)