Come On, Rain by Karen Hesse, illustrated by Jon J. Muth (Scholastic Press, 1999)
This is one of those books that I just love to read during the hot and muggy New England summer. There’s nothing quite like a rainstorm to cool an oppressive heat wave. It makes you want to go out in the rain in your bathing suit and dance around. With delicate image-rich prose and beautiful watercolors that seem to blur in the heat and rain, Karen Hesse and Jon Muth bring these feelings to life. You can feel the heaviness of the heat, the impatient anticipation right before it rains, and then the joyful relief as the world finally cools off.
Tess and her mother are wilting and cranky in a summer heatwave. “Up and down the block, cats pant, heat wavers off tar patches in the broiling alleyway.” Tess finally sees rain clouds rolling in on the horizon and she gets an idea that will cool herself off. She rounds up her friends, all barefoot in their bathing suits in the street, and wait. “We meet in the alleyway. All the insects have gone still. Trees sway under a swollen sky, the wind grows bold and bolder…and just like that, rain comes.” The girls play and splash joyfully together, until they are surprisingly joined by their mothers, cheering and whooping uncharacteristically in the cooling rain.Together, mothers and daughters all dance and laugh, enjoying the break of hot weather, feeling rejuvenated and happy. “I hug Mamma hard, and she hugs me back. The rain has made us new.”
The seed for Karen Hesse’s Newbery-winning novel, Out of the Dust, came from this picture book, and you can clearly see the parallels of characters in both books waiting desperately for rain. Jon J. Muth complements Hesse’s poetic prose with watercolors that fully emote. The beginning pages are drenched in yellow and orange, radiating heat, blurry with the haze of a hot summer day. Double page spreads show, first, just hands, reaching to the heavy clouds, and then bare feet in the street, as the first drops fall. As the characters dance and splash, the illustrations become even more watery, as if the reader is looking at them through a wall of rain. I especially love how the mothers and daughters are dressed in matching colors, complementing each other as they dance.
Need a break from the heat? This is just the book for you.
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At The Carle Bookshop we specialize in backlist picture books. Backlist is bookseller talk for the not-so-new picture books that you often can’t find at other bookstores. We carry the fabulous new books too (make sure to read our weekly Top of the Shelf posts for new book recommendations), but we know what makes us unique are the shelves and shelves of picture books you remember from your childhood or books you read to your own children. Each Friday, we’ll highlight one of these special older titles in case you may have missed it or forgotten about it along the way. Let’s keep the picture book alive and loved, shall we?