Author: Linda Ashman
Illustrator: Christian Robinson
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Audience: Ages 4-8
Summary: An irrepressible little boy in a frog hat lifts the spirits of everyone he meets on a very rainy day. A grumpy old man just as surely spreads his glum irritation throughout the streets of the same city. A collision of these two worldviews in a restaurant leads to a change of heart for one.
Literary elements at work in the story: The minimalist text in this story consists entirely of two- to five-word bits of dialogue. Bellhops at respective apartment houses wish their departing residents a good morning. “Hardly. Dang puddle,” grouses the old man. On the facing page the little boy’s reaction to the same day of rain is “Ribbit!” as he jumps in a puddle. Robinson’s collage and paint illustrations bring rich character development to this simple story. This would be a wonderful book for children and adults to pore over together, looking at people’s faces, wondering together what the characters are thinking and feeling.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? This is a multi-cultural urban setting. Although the author and artist focus on the different outlooks of an old, crotchety man and a young exuberant boy, they do not typecast age and youth, as there are also happy elderly people and unhappy babies and young people in the crowd scenes on the streets of the city.
Theological Conversation Partners: One small person is able to transform the spirits of others, just by sharing his enthusiasm and joy at being alive. This would be a great book to use with Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13:33, which speaks to the power of God’s grace in the world: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” In the same vein, Rain! would provide a wonderful illustration of Jesus’ admonition not to put one’s lamp under a bowl: “…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) Young children do not often get to experience their own power and influence for good, so this book might be used as an encouragement to be yeast and light in the world. Finally, this book might serve as a good conversation partner in a discussion about the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-26). Joy overflows and infects all those who come in contact with the little boy in this story.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Why do you think the little boy in this story is so happy?
- Why do you think the man in this story is so unhappy?
- Look at the people around the old man in the early part of the story. Why do you think they are feeling the way they do?
- Now, look at the people around the young boy. Why do you think they are feeling the way they do?
- How did the little boy change the man’s outlook?
- Jesus told us that we can help change the way people behave just by being good examples. How did the little boy influence the people he saw on the street and in the restaurant?
- How could you be a good example in the places you go?
This review was written by regular contributor Beth Lyon-Suhring.