Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: The River


Have you ever wondered how a river forms? Once it forms, where does it go to? What types of environments will it pass through? The story The River which is written by Brigitte Sidjanski and illustrated by Bernadette Watts tells the story from the point of view of five pine cones who drop down from a pine tree into the river, curious about what adventures lie ahead of them:

“Five little pine cones peep down from their branches and wonder where the dancing brook will go. Then the cones pop off and-plop!-down they fall into the running water. An adventure begins.”

As the pine cones journey down the river, they each become attracted to the perks that different types of environments have to offer and, one by one, they decide to separate from the other pine cones in order to stay in their new homes. Only one of the five pine cones completes the journey down river and ends up on the beach, where it is soon buried in the sand but later flourishes into a gorgeous pine tree. This book teaches young children a great life lesson: the road to achieve something you really want is a long and winding road. But if you continue along the path, don’t give up and just keep moving forward, you will eventually see the end of the tunnel and all your dreams will come true.

Curriculum Connections

This book is a great tool for kids to recognize and understand the many different types of environment that are out in the world today. The River incorporates bits and pieces from the Virginia Standards of Learning: Geography 1.6. In the book, the student is taught a very important lesson about how climate, location, physical characteristics, etc. attract people to certain areas around the world. Every person has different tastes, likes/dislikes, etc. and as the book showed me, none of the pine cones chose to stay in the same area as another. Every pine cone chose a different environmental setting to call home and this is exactly how things are today.

Additional Resources

  • ABC Teach: With this website, children and teachers are able to experience the fun and joy of learning about the importance of the environment and how to protect it. One of the best activities this website provides for students is word search puzzles in the shapes of different environmental products like flowers and raindrops.
  • PineConeLady:  This fun and unique website enables children to build different animals and crafts while using pine cones. With creativity, students can create four different kinds of animals that live in different environments and then the teacher can ask them in which environmental setting from The River that each animal belongs in.
  • Kids’s Planet-Defenders of Wildlife: This website is a must for all elementary school teachers that are looking to show their students the different types of wildlife out in the world and the environments that they inhabit. Providing creative and fun lesson plans, this site also provides hours of nonstop activities for children of all ages.

General Information:

  • Book: The River
  • Author: Brigitte Sidjanski
  • Illustrator: Bernadette Watts
  • Publisher: Penguin Group USA
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Pages: 26
  • Grade Range: Pre-school to 2nd Grade
  • ISBN: 0-698-40077-1

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