Yesterday was a dreary and very wet day for us and at one moment I found myself searching for a good book to lift the household spirits when this smiling frog-kid caught my eye from the top of a pile. I had not read through it yet, but had read many wonderful reviews and interviews with the author and illustrator, so my expectations were high (and skeptical, as always). Let me just say, we were delighted. This is a simple story about a rainy morning told from two differing perspectives and it packs a lot of heart and leaves you with a big smile. This is Rain! by Linda Ashman, pictures by Christian Robinson, 2013.
With the opening spread, you get an instant feel of the contrast, vibrancy, and mood of the rain falling on the city.
With very few words, the story shares the perspectives of a grumpy old man and a delighted little boy as they discover, interact with, and respond to the rain.
Most of the book is told with the older man’s story on the left and the young boy’s on the right. The text is all spoken word, which I often find very tricky to read aloud, but it works extremely well here. The rainy morning progresses in each person’s day individually until an interesting meeting occurs and the question arises as to whose mood is going to affect whom.
This story warms my heart so deeply. The lack of a narrator is a brilliant, clever, and stunning move by author Linda Ashman. In her interview with Julie Danielson over on Kirkus, she shares how detailed her manuscript was, despite there being so few words, and how she actually imagined it to be wordless in the beginning. The combination of the spoken text and Robinson’s colorful and very expressive illustrations are a marvelous thing to behold. I find the story to be captivating to any reader and an excellent lesson in reading facial expressions and situations. One thing is for sure, when reading aloud, you must use intonation. No getting off easy with a straight read through. Pause, grunt, sigh, be gruff, be childlike… although you may think it looks simple; this piece of art is complex in both plot and pictures!
Illustrator Christian Robinson used paint and collage with digital editing for the art and I am immensely enthralled with his skill. At first glance, the illustrations may seem crude and dare some say, easy to create (shame on you!). But there is so much happening in these amazing compositions. From the color palettes of each character, to the facial expressions of the bystanders, Mr. Robinson is a master storyteller. I especially love the few sparse signs sprinkled on images, and most importantly, the name of the cafe where the two protagonists collide. See more art from Mr. Robinson on his website, a happy interview with Jules on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, and this other glimpse from Jules with some early sketches and tests for Rain! too.
This is a book I’ll be coming back to again and again, as a delight especially on rainy days, and as a reminder of how important my attitude and outlook are to those around me.