River Music

Leigh Sauwerwein

At the edge of the woods the girl hesitated, then darted forward like a deer. Stopping in front of the house, she dug into the pocket of her dress and placed something on the bottom step. Then turned at once and ran, disappearing quickly into the pines. To Rainy Barnes, it is a mystery where this girl and her presents come from—a silver medallion on a chain, a bracelet with a flat green stone, a bright gold ring. But the bigger mystery to Rainy is her own existence: as an infant she was found by Papa Will in the crook of a tree, wrapped in a big soft blanket, with raindrops on her cheeks.

River Music is told in a symphony of voices, the voices of people, black and white, whose lives are intertwined in the unsettled, unsettling years following the Civil War. Throughout, the cadences of life in the rural South lure the reader to piece together Rainy’s story and the stories of those around her.

  • Ages: 12 and up
  • Grades: 6-10
  • Pages: 132
  • Hardcover: $18.95
  • Softcover: $9.95
  • E-book: $8.95

Recent Reviews

As a cooing, sweet baby with auburn hair and raindrops on her face, Rainy Barnes was left in the crook of a tree. ...The singular voices of the diverse people involved in the mystery of Rainy’s birth compose the brief chapters that tell this ethereal tale. Skilled readers will attentively follow the events that led that someone to place Rainy in that particular tree on that fateful day. Sauerwein trusts her audience to feel the cadence of the river music as the story flows to a gentle and satisfying conclusion.


The music referred to in the title refers to the chorus of voices that narrate this elegiac story.... Using different perspectives from people, black and white, whose lives are inextricably tangled and period details to enrich her story, Sauerwein provides a glimpse into lives touched by war and displacement. ...River Music is [a]...meditation on loneliness, loss, and love.

—School Library Journal

This deft novella provides glimpses of life in...[the years immediately following the Civil War], exploring the complex relationships between the characters at this specific point in history. Sauerwein’s writing style is lyrical and evocative.... An impressive range of experiences is explored given the book's short length. A refreshing break from the action-packed offerings in much young adult fiction, this lovely bit of historical fiction will be a delight for patient readers who savor descriptive language. 4Q 3P

—Voice of Youth Advocates