What is a River?

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Book cover for "What is a River?"

What Is a River? approaches the inquiry at its heart from all sides and angles, creating a richly imagined story woven of many answers, rather than a single explanation. A river is a thread, a home, a mystery, a name. This beautifully illustrated nonfiction picture book gives space to answers both conceptual and factual.

“What is a river?” an inquisitive young girl asks her grandmother as the pair sits together on the river’s banks. Like many questions posed by curious children, this one is deceptively simple in its asking. Yet, its answer spans the very world itself: geography and history, science and religion, industry and environmentalism.

A river is a connection.
A river is a connection… Rivers connect the past, present, and future.
A river is a journey.
A river is a journey… Rivers can join together and flow as one, connecting places and people.
A river is a reflection.
A river is a reflection… River reflect their surroundings, and they tell us about ourselves.
A river is a smell.
A river is a smell… So many smells!

Through author-illustrator Monika Vaicenavičienė’s eyes, the river becomes a vessel for enormous complexity, a lens through which the interconnectedness of our shared earth can be understood.


Born in Lithuania, Monika Vaicenavičienė graduated from the Komstak Art School in Sweden. What Is a River? is her debut picture book. In making the art for the book, she used a variety of materials, including pencils, watercolors, gouache, and digital tools.

Lithuanian author Monika Vaicenavičienė tells about their book, What is a River?, which has been awarded several prizes and translated into over ten languages ​​after being first published in Swedish in 2019.

  • Author/Illustrator: Monika Vaicenavičienė
  • Hardcover w/Dust Jacket:  48 pages
  • Publisher:  First English-language edition, published by Enchanted Lion Books (March 30, 2021)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592702794
  • Reading Age: 4-8

What is a River?
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