The Question of Miracles by Elana K. Arnold
Iris and her family have just moved to Corvallis, Oregon where Iris longs for sunshine and warm weather but is constantly faced with falling rain. Iris is struggling with the death of her best friend and has very little interest in making new friends or exploring her new town. Iris meets Boris and the two slowly become friends despite the fact that Boris is a messy eater, breaths through his mouth all the time, and wants Iris to play Magic all the time. But Boris is also fascinating to Iris because his birth could have been a real miracle that the Vatican is investigating. Iris wants to know how some people get miracles and others don’t. And what’s with the haunting presence she feels in the cupboard under the stairs where her best friend’s tennis racket rests? Is it possible that there is another miracle about to happen and Iris will be able to contact her friend?
Arnold does a simply beautiful job of writing this novel. Her crafting of Iris’ world and family is done with a gentleness and detail that is inspired. And through it all, readers will feel the chill of the constantly falling rain, the loneliness of the tennis racket under the stairs, and the sorrow that leads Iris to fall asleep early often. Arnold also shows in imagery over and over again the impermanence of things. From snow angels that are stepped on to eggs that don’t hatch, she crafts moments of fragility that show the uncertainty of life.
At the same time, she uses intense moments of comfort and being together with others that are warming and stand brightly against the cold wet weather that Iris finds herself trapped in. Those moments show such hope for Iris in a way that is tangible and realistic. Arnold also allows readers to see Oregon through Iris’ eyes for the most part. While there are these moments of light and warmth, snacks and hot chocolate, readers will start to see the beauty of Oregon and the wonder of the rain only when Iris herself starts to lift out of grief. The entire process is done over time and very realistically.
Beautiful writing that is poetic and filled with imagery yet easy to read and understand, this book will speak to fans of Kevin Henkes. Appropriate for ages 9-12
Reviewed from library copy.
Rain by Carol Thompson
Snow by Carol Thompson
Sun by Carol Thompson
Wind by Carol Thompson
Four lovely little board books in this set by Thompson. Told very simply but with plenty of energy, these books look at different kinds of weather and children out playing in it. Rain begins with a bit of hesitation but ends with the merry fun of jumping into puddles. Snow invites children to breathe out clouds and plunk right down in the snow. Sun has clothes coming off and playing in a pool together. Wind roars from page to page but then in the end is gentle too.
Introduce toddlers to different kinds of weather and different seasons, but even more importantly get them outside to experience it themselves too! Appropriate for ages 1-2.
Reviewed from copies received from Child’s Play.
Little Bird Takes a Bath by Marisabina Russo
Little Bird hates the rain and it was raining on his nest high above the city. The next morning though, the rain was gone and it was a lovely day. It was the perfect day for a bath! But the trouble was finding the right puddle. Some puddles were too big, some too small, and others were too crowded with other bathers. Then Little Bird found just the right puddle on a path in the park. But over and over again he got interrupted during his bathing. There was a bouncing ball, a little girl in flip flops, and a dog. By the time they had all gone through his puddle, it was far too small to bathe in. Little Bird flew up above the city, then spotted a fountain that looked like it was just the right size for a little bird.
Russo’s picture book is gentle and echoes traditional stories. She incorporates repetition and the mirroring of Goldilocks finding things that were “just right” adds much to the story. As the different things interrupt Little Bird’s bath, they are shown by the noise they make and then the reader turns the page to see what is making that noise. This little touch makes the book more dynamic and interactive for young listeners.
Russo’s art is just as inviting as the story she weaves. She makes sure that readers know that this is a city bird both in the text and the illustrations. Her images move from close ups of Little Bird to most distant images of the cityscape and how Little Bird flies across it. This change of scale makes the book interesting and children will enjoy seeing the path of Little Bird as he locates puddles and fountains in the city.
A great pick for rainy read alouds, this book will be welcome at toddler and preschool story times. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.
When the Wind Blows by Linda Booth Sweeney, illustrated by Jana Christy
Head outside on a windy day in this breezy picture book. When the wind chimes start to ring, a family excitedly gets ready to go outside into the fresh air. Together a little boy and his grandmother fly a kite that eventually breaks free and rides off on the wind. The wind blows the grass and flowers. It also sends the sailboats out on the water racing. The wind gets even stronger and a storm moves in with thunder and rain. They head back home into the bright warm lights of the house. There they are cozy and protected, unworried about the storm that continues outside. It is night when the storm clears and everyone is asleep.
Told in short rhyming lines of poetry, this picture book manages to be fresh and fun rather than stilted in any way. The rhymes and their rhythms offer a dynamic edge to the book, creating movement that echoes that of the wind in the words themselves. The attention is on both humans enjoying the breezy weather and also nature as the storm moves in. This is an invitation to head out into changing weather.
Christy’s illustrations are gorgeous. They have vivid colors and capture the movement of the wind. Just seeing the images evokes wind and breeze, as if fresh air is lifting off each page as you read. She also captures the joy of being out in weather, the fun of wild wind and the beauty of oncoming storms.
A beautiful look at weather, wind and rain that will have everyone looking for their kites on the next breezy day. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre
The author of Eat Like a Bear returns with another great nonfiction picture book. In this book she offers the joy of rain and water. Told in a poetic way, the text conveys the anticipation of rain that you can feel coming and the changes in the sky. When the rain arrives, it makes noise, makes things wet, including animals out in the weather. There is running water, mud, all sorts of changes take place. When the rain stops, the raindrops remain and weigh things down, dot and cling. They change things as they linger until the sun returns to dry them away.
Sayre’s poem dances like the rain itself, pattering along and showing the beauty of the rain. This is a book that celebrates darkening skies and weather, showing the importance of rain, the way that insects protect themselves from it, and the dazzle that it leaves behind. Sayre manages to convey science along the way, though the focus of the book continues to be the loveliness of this type of weather.
Her photographs are part of the dazzle of this book. They are large, clear and brilliantly done. She captures insects before and after the rain, drops that merge together, rain as it runs and dots. Her photos are colorful, filled with water and gorgeous.
A perfect book to share in the spring or just before heading out with umbrellas into the garden. This is just the sort of book we need to encourage children to get outside and play in the rain. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.
Blue on Blue by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes
On a family farm, the day starts out with bright sunshine and laundry drying on the line. Soon though, clouds move in and the weather changes, becoming colder. The rain starts to fall and it falls for a long time, combined with thunder and lightning. When the rain slows, the dogs and the little girl head outside, discovering along with the pigs the joy of muddy play in the sunshine. Sun sets and baths are given. The night ends with the sparkle of stars in the night sky and everyone tucked into bed except for the whales jumping in the moonlight.
Told in very simple poetry, this picture book shines and shimmers on the page. White’s poem captures the wildness of a summer storm, the feeling of the endlessness of the rain, and then the slow return to sunshine and warmth. In particular, she creates that sense of impending storm beforehand as well as the slow pitter patter of the drops as they slow and then end. Her poetry is complete accessible for even the smallest of children who will enjoy the repetition and the farm setting with all of the animals.
Krommes is a Caldecott-award winning illustrator. Her scatchboard and watercolor illustrations are incredibly detailed and marvelously textured. She creates a sense of place so clearly here, with the little house perched on the edge of the water, the whales jumping, and the farm. Her detailed art plays homage to the simple things in the life, the cat on the other side of the screen door, a jumprope over a bedpost, abandoned umbrellas, and mud.
This book is a joy and is a perfect springtime or summertime read when the big storms are blowing through. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.
The Good Ship Crocodile by J. Patrick Lewis and Monique Felix
Snout was a crocodile who lived on a river. During the rainy season, the water level would rise and other animals would get into trouble. The fireflies could not fly in the falling rain, so they asked Snout to carry them to the other side of the river. Across they went, riding on his back and even in his mouth. Day after day, Snout carried animals across the river to safety. Finally, when the sun came out again, Snout realized that he could no longer see his home because he had drifted far downstream. Now it was Snout’s turn to ask the other animals for help returning to his home.
Lewis served as U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate from 2011-2013 and in this picture book, you can see his skill with words on every page. Lewis creates an entire world here, including an unusually kind crocodile. His words are so simple and uncomplicated, yet they create a sturdy structure for the story. He doesn’t offer rationalizations for why this crocodile is so kind, but clearly shows that doing kindness for others will inspire them to do it for you when you need it most.
The illustrations in this book are breathtaking. Felix creates a crocodile that looks wonderfully real, particularly in the very close up images. As the crocodile takes different animals across the river, the text goes silent, allowing time for the reader to mentally make the journey too. It also builds a great tension where readers will wonder if he will snap his jaws shut at any moment.
Beautifully told and illustrated, this is a strong addition to any story time on crocodiles or kindness. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Tap Tap Boom Boom by Elizabeth Bluemle, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Join a group of city kids as a thunderstorm bursts overhead. It starts with just a “tap tap” of rain and the umbrellas come out. Then a “boom boom” enters and a “crackle” of lightning too. Puddles form and the wind swells. So the children head down into the subway to get underground. Lots of people gather and shelter in the subway, including some very wet dogs that shake themselves dry on everyone. People stop, talk with one another, share umbrellas. Then the storm ends and there is a gorgeous surprise in the sky.
Bluemle offers a jaunty rhythm in her poem that also has rhymes that work well. She captures the unexpected nature of a summer storm and combines it with the camaraderie that forms when people shelter together. This is a very positive book, one that has all different sorts of people put together in one large urban community.
Karas’ illustrations are done in his signature style. His pictures are a mix of drawings, paintings and photographs. The combination creates a slick urban feel with added warmth from his very personable characters who fill up the space.
A great choice for thundery spring weather, this picture book celebrates storms. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Big Wet Balloon by Liniers
Inspired by his daughters aged 3 and 5, this book celebrates a rainy day. When Matilda wakes up on a Saturday morning, she is delighted by everything she can do that day. Clemmie, her little sister, gets excited too. But then their day turns out to be filled with rain. Matilda is undaunted and sets out to persuade Clemmie to join her out in the rain. Clemmie is very hesitant, insisting that it is wet, until Matilda shows her the umbrella and how to use it. Clemmie then enjoys the rain until her red balloon floats off when she gets too excited. But Matilda finds a way to make that right as well.
Liniers shows his adoration for his daughters in this book. Clemmie is clearly a toddler and expresses herself in early sentences and short words. Matilda is an enthusiastic older sibling who wants to spend time out in the weather. It is a pleasure to see a sibling relationship depicted with such warmth and evident love for one another. Matilda is never frustrated by the situation, always coming up with another way to approach it. The words and art dance together here. Both help tell this story of a rainy and wet Saturday.
My children always loved rain more than sun, so this is a book that they would have loved. Time to get out rain slickers and umbrellas and play in the rain! Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Rainbow Stew by Cathryn Falwell
Released on June 15, 2013.
Three children scramble out of bed at their grandpa’s house to a rainy day. But they don’t want to stay inside, so Grandpa sends them outside to find colors to add to his Rainbow Stew. They splash their way into the garden and look under the wet green leaves to find what colors are hidden beneath. They find all sorts of green vegetables like beans, spinach, and cucumbers, some rosy radishes, some purple cabbage, yellow peppers, red tomatoes and brown potatoes. Soon their basket is full and the three children are muddy and happy. They all head inside to cook the stew together, each child helping in their own way. Then there is quiet time inside as the stew cooks, until finally they can all enjoy Rainbow Stew!
Falwell merrily combines a love of gardening and a willingness to get muddy in this book. She uses quick rhymes that add a bouncy feel to the book, maintaining that sense of joy that is everywhere in this book. I am particularly pleased to see a book with a grandfather taking expert care of grandchildren in this book.
The illustrations are filled with falling rain, but also small faces turned up into it and knees plunked down into the mud. The completely African-American family is also great to see in a picture book that easily integrates into rain or gardening or color units and story times.
Ripe and ready to be picked, this is a great choice for sharing aloud in spring or fall. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Lee & Low Books via NetGalley.