Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Picture Book Review: Rain by Sam Usher

Rain by Sam Usher. Unpgd. Templar Books/ Candlewick Press, March, 2017. 9780763692964. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)

When I received an email asking me if I'd be interested in reviewing this title, I took one look at that gorgeous cover and immediately clicked the reply button. It's gorgeous! It's even more gorgeous in person, what with the embossed title and all. The rain drops are even embossed. I got a kind of Peter Spier-ish* vibe from the cover art.

A small boy wakes up one morning to discover a rainy day outside and tells the reader that he can't wait to get outside. Only, granddad says it's a good day to stay indoors. The boy wants to do all the things one cannot do on a sunny day like, catching raindrops in one's mouth, splashing in puddles and looking at the world upside down reflected in a puddle. But granddad insists they wait till the rain stops so the boy totes an armful of books to a window seat and waits. He waits and reads while granddad sorts the mail and reads a letter. The rain doesn't stop. Intermittent double-page spreads show the street outside the boy's home as the water slowly rises and granddad writes a letter. The moment granddad finishes, he announces that they need to mail a letter and at the same time, the rain has ceased. The world outside their door is a watery wonder. It's a good thing they brought umbrellas because it started to rain again; but no worries! They catch raindrops and things the boy saw in his books join in the fun. He even gets to mail granddad's letter in one of the coolest post boxes I've ever seen. Back in a warm and cozy kitchen, sipping hot chocolate with granddad, the boy agrees that "The very best things are always worth waiting for."

Love at first sight only grew through the pages to the satisfying ending and has held up through multiple re-readings. This one's a keeper. The watercolor and ink illustrations feature a lively yet thoughtful red-headed boy who is not only totally at home with his granddad but totally fine with amusing himself. The palette is bright and cheerful. The illustrations range in size from spot art through single and double-page spreads and depict a comfortable home filled with all sorts of interesting details, such as a faithful stuffed monkey who waits on the window seat or the forgotten striped yo-yo under an end-table, and understated humor, such as granddad considering a letter that contains hearts on the envelop followed by a distinct blush rising as he reads the very long letter. 

Each scene invites the reader to linger. Observant young readers or listeners will note how the boy's imagination comes alive. I work with a small group of students daily. I read aloud a chapter from a chapter book as well as a picture book or two each day. They loved this one and immediately asked what else the author wrote. That's when we learned that this is a companion to an earlier book called Snow. Guess what I had to order through interlibrary loan? 

Rain is highly recommended for all sorts of library collections - for its lovely art; for its sweet depiction of love and trust between a grandparent and grandchild; for its celebration of the power of imagination and play.

*Peter Spier was a favorite of my own sons when they were young. We own a number of his books so I found them to revisit. I had totally forgotten that Spier has a title called Rain as well. I jotted a note on the inside of the book in 1989 (the original copyright is 1982 and my copy was in the eleventh printing) saying that #2 son had borrowed it from his nursery school library and was so taken by the art, I had to buy a copy for our home library. This title is a wordless book featuring a brother and sister who spend a rainy day exploring their backyard and neighborhood. The palette veers more toward pastel hues, but there's a similar attention to detail and the sheer joy of childlike curiosity and discovery. 

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