Bad Day at Riverbend by Chris Van Allsburg

Set in Riverbend, an oddly quiet and colourless (heh) little town found along a “dusty road that led nowhere”, and where “no one ever came” and “no one ever left”, what begins as a sleepy Western tale quickly takes a more mysterious turn when the town becomes repeatedly besieged by a strange slimy substance each time a brilliant light is seen just beyond the horizon.

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As with most of Chris Van Allsburg’s stories, things are often not what they seem, and Bad Day at Riverbend is no exception. Although some canny readers may be able to predict the twist in the tale, so as not to spoil it for everyone else, it suffices to say that the masterfully plotted lead-up to the final reveal is still entirely enjoyable.

And while the simple line drawings are, for good reason, a departure from the Caldecott Medal winner’s usual intricate illustrations, the final few spreads are a trip for the imagination — and a timely reminder of his artistic and storytelling prowess.

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