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.
Rain! by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Christian Robinson
The perfect book to lift your spirits on a soggy spring day! When an older man wakes up and sees the rain, he is not happy. But when a little boy looks out at the same rain, he’s delighted. The older man grumbles through his preparations to go outside, while the little boy puts on his green boots, green coat and frog hat still happy with the gloomy weather. The old man grumbles about puddles, while you can see the joy of the child. They end up in the same café, the old man still grumpy with his day and the young boy happy with cocoa and cookies. When the two bump into each other, it seems like the grumpiness rubs off on the little boy. But then he notices that the older man left his hat behind, and with a little joke and a shared cookie, a day is brightened.
Ashman has written this book very simply, just in snatches of dialogue. Despite the simplicity, the mood of each character is clear in their words. It is made even more clear by the cut-paper illustrations that display each person’s mood with just a few lines. Readers will notice that the pages with the older man have others with grumpy faces while the pages with the the child have others with smiles.
A book that is sure to have readers jumping merrily in puddles and dancing in the rain, this is an inspiration to look on the bright side of things and share your happiness. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Mudkin by Stephen Gammell
A young girl heads outside after it stops raining to play, pretending to be a queen. Suddenly, some mud turns into Mudkin, a jolly muddy creature, who asks the girl to be his queen. Mudkin speaks in muddy phrases, splotches instead of letters, but happily the girl interprets for us. Mudkin creates a robe and crown from mud for the new queen. He also makes a carriage that carries the queen to the muddy castle on the hill. From the parapet, she sees the large number of mudkins that she will be reigning over and pledges to rule forever. Then the rain begins again and the mud dreams are washed away.
Gammell uses his signature style here to great effect with the swirls of color as shadow and the flying sprays of mud that follow every gesture. Mudkin is a very friendly creature of warm brown, who smiles and drips. Gammell has created a brown that celebrates the colors within it, turning to yellows, reds and oranges too.
The book has very few words, most of them in the conversations between the girl and Mudkin. Mudkin speaks a marvelous way, in smudges that almost are letters, but not quite. It brings the pleasure of imagination and play into the text as well as the illustrations.
A book sure to encourage children to head out in the rain, play in the mud, imagine, dream, and come back in resembling Mudkin!
Reviewed from digital copy received from Carolrhoda Books via NetGalley.
Also reviewed by There’s a Book.
You can also check out the Making of Mudkin video to see watercolor magic: