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The Other Side of the River

On the Other Side of the River, illustrated by Aliki, was recently reissued in Japan by Tuttle. Originally published in the US by Franklin Watts in 1972. It was also published at that time in UK, France, Sweden, Korea, Germany and Denmark. It has been out of print for years. Aliki and I were delighted when the new edition arrived in 2016.

I no longer have the reviews from 1972, but  recently I stumbled on two reviews online that I want to share:

"A terrible storm destroys the bridge that had once connected the east and west sections of the village of Wynlock. At first the residents are happy to be independent of those on the other side of the river. Yet it soon becomes obvious that neither side can survive without the help of their fellow villagers...In a humorous way, Oppenheim presents the situation of community members not getting along, but then coming to the realization that they need each other...The lesson of interdependence is a critical one for children to learn. It is presented here in a lively and entertaining way that it easily understood by young children. This is my very favorite book from our local library. It is a shame that it is no longer in print. Interdependence is a concept that is found in social studies standards. This book is THE PERFECT vehicle for allowing children to learn about it. Ms. Oppenheim, if you are out there, please submit it to Scholastic Books. I think it would be a best seller!!!"

" I have an original copy of this delightful book from my childhood. It is a story about a divided town who discover how much they really all need each other, and so they learn to get along. Although written in the 1970s it is still (maybe more) relevant today. My copy is showing real signs of age and I'd love a new one but it is out of print. I agree with the other reviewer - please reprint this book. It has a great message for the kids of today."

JFO: Thanks for your kind words. It's always pleasing to know your story resonated. Back in 1972, I remember wishing that Nixon would take it to China with him. I didn't write this book to deliver a message, but it's a message that still needs to be delivered worldwide!  


Q&A for The Other Side of the River

What was the inspiration for this book?

I had been rereading an old collection of folktales that I grew up with and fell asleep reading. When I woke up I wrote down the story of The Other Side of the River from start to finish. That has never happened to me again. It took time to find a home, but a year after a young editor rejected it she called to ask if it was still available. She had been out-voted in her previous job, but now she was the senior editor and wanted it for her list.


Did you work with Aliki on the book?

No, the funny thing is that Aliki and I have never met in person. Publishers tend to keep their writers and illustrators apart. I wrote her a thank you note that she never received. More than forty years later, after an editor in Japan contacted me about reissuing the book, I wrote to Aliki. I did not have a copy of the book because my home was destroyed in a fire.  Aliki not only had a copy to send to the publisher, she   generously sent me a copy from her own collection and gave me a gift of some of the original art for the book—all of which I treasure. 

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