Monday, May 21, 2007

Karen Hesse: Come On, Rain!

I vaguely remember this picture book coming out around 2000, and receiving some acclaim, but I never picked it up until this week. And I'm glad I finally did.

The story is very simple: it's a hot, heavy summer day, and the main character is longing for rain. When it finally comes, she and her friends put on their bathing suits and dance around in the streets. Even the mothers quit their gardening and other work and join in the celebration.

The watercolor illustrations are stunning (you may know Jon Muth as the one who was recently responsible for the gorgeous illustrations in The Three Questions). The pages nearly waver with the hazy, wavy heat, and practically wash away with the rain. The prose is elegant and poetic and fresh. But best of all, it is a quietly beautiful story of celebration, and renewal, and coming together as a community. It calls each and every one of us to take a moment out of our busy, heavy lives to appreciate and enjoy the miracle and beauty in everyday wonders like rain.

"We sure did get a soaking, Mamma," I say,
and we head home,
purely soothed,
fresh as dew,
turning toward the first sweet rays of the sun.
Author Karen Hesse won the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 2002 and is probably most well-known for her Newberry Award-winning young adult novel Out Of The Dust (which I have yet to read). Among other young adult fiction, she has also written Stowaway, a diary-style young adult novel based on the true story of a young boy who stows away on Captain John Cook's ship in the 1700's (I did read this one and enjoyed the tale).

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