To be alone when faced with scary circumstances heightens the fear factor. May I Come In? (Sleeping Bear Press, February 15, 2018) written by Marsha Diane Arnold with illustrations by Jennie Poh follows a creature as he seeks sanctuary with other forest animals. His bravery is to be commended but will it be rewarded?
As the storm worsened Raccoon knew he would not be able to endure it alone any longer. With only his trusty umbrella for protection, Raccoon left his home. Sloshing through puddles in Thistle Hollow, Raccoon made his way first to Possum's abode.
When he asked if he could come inside with Possum, Possum said no. His den was too small. Quail had a similar reply to Raccoon's query. Traveling even farther into the forest, Raccoon stood before Woodchuck's hole with hope in his heart. Woodchuck's answer referred to Raccoon's less than stellar fortune. There was only enough space for one.
Discouraged by the results of his wet walk in the wild night, Raccoon stood wondering what to do. Looking ahead through the rain, he saw a light. It was Rabbit's house. As she stood in the doorway, ten bunnies
hopped and bopped to the raindrops.
Raccoon was sure there was no more room for him. Rabbit had other ideas. Raccoon was a welcome guest in her happy bungalow. As the storm splashed, boomed and flashed the night delivered more surprises. When it comes to friends, there is no such thing as too crowded.
With her rhyming words Marsha Diane Arnold requests our presence in this narrative. We easily connect to the predicament in which Raccoon finds himself. As Raccoon makes his way from home to home, Marsha Diane Arnold uses repeating phrases to describe his progress. The first three encounters have nearly identical questions and answers further enhancing a storytelling cadence. This leads us gently into the warmth of Rabbit's welcoming reply and also provides space for the surprise. Here is a passage.
Raccoon splashed on through Thistle Hollow,
all the way to Quail's brambles.
"Quail, old friend, may I come in?"
"What bad luck," Quail replied.
"My brambles are tight. You're too wide."
Spread across the back and front of the matching, opened dust jacket and book case and even the flaps is a forest scene on the stormy night. To the left we can see two birds sheltered in a hole in a tree. Rain drops slant from a darkened sky as Raccoon makes his way toward Rabbit's red door and the light glowing in the window. His orange scarf and purple and pink polka-dotted umbrella add a bit of cheer to the gloomy night.
The opening and closing endpapers are a crisp, clean white. Beneath the text on the title page is a closer picture of Rabbit's tree amid the rain, thunder and lightning. For several of the illustrations Jennie Poh has loosely framed circular shapes on single pages. She follows these with single-page pictures, edge to edge. Sometimes elements in a visual extend past a border, a tree branch, a bit of weed, leaves, and portions of a character.
To further encourage reader participation in the story, Jennie Poh shifts perspective. At times we feel as though we are side-by-side Raccoon as he struggles from place to place, braving the storm. When he finally finds a friend willing to offer him a place in her home, we move in closer to the scene experiencing the joy and hospitality.
One of several of my favorite illustrations is of Rabbit. Behind her are ten bouncing bunnies on a circular pale brown background. They are a variety of browns, grays and white in color. All of them, including Rabbit, are happy. Rabbit is wearing a short red apron. Even before we turn the page to read her answer, we know it will be yes.
For many nothing is scarier than a thunderstorm. To have to survive one at night, alone, makes this fear worse. May I Come In? written by Marsha Diane Arnold with illustrations by Jennie Poh is a heartwarming exploration of a friend in need. The whimsical images enliven the journey. For a story time I would pair this story with TAP TAP BOOM BOOM (Candlewick Press, March 25, 2014) written by Elizabeth Bluemle with illustrations by G. Brian Karas and Blue on Blue (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, December 2014) written by debut author Dianne White and illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner (The House in the Night, 2009) Beth Krommes. This book May I Come In? is the perfect kind of hug needed during a storm.
To learn more about Marsha Diane Arnold and Jennie Poh and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their website and blog, respectively. Marsha Diane Arnold is interviewed at writer and illustrator Jena Benton's site about this title. At KidLit 411 Jennie Poh is interviewed about this book. You can view many interior pages at the publisher's website.
I am thrilled to welcome Marsha Diane Arnold today for a guest post about this title. I know this will bring greater insight to readers about the spark for this story. These connections really help to make children's literature creators more real to readers. Thank you, Marsha.
May I Come In? by Marsha Diane Arnold, illustrated by Jennie Poh
Thank you, Margie Myers-Culver, the lovely librarian who is ever-questing for wondrous books for readers. It’s an honor to be here.
In May I Come In? Raccoon is afraid to spend the night alone during a thunderstorm, so he grabs his umbrella to search for company. He’s turned away by Quail, Possum, and Woodchuck. All explain that there’s just no room. When Raccoon arrives at Rabbit’s home, full of hopping, bopping bunnies, he’s sure there’s no room there either, but Rabbit surprises him.
May I Come In? will be available in bookstores on February 15th, but as I write this today, on February 1st, I’ve had the fun of already sharing the book with two elementary school classes, one in Connecticut and one in Hyderabad, India. Both classes relished saying the rhyming words, “Swish. Plish.” along with me, as Raccoon splashed through rain puddles. They related to the fear that comes when we’re alone during scary times. I shared about Hurricane Irma here in Florida and how many, including my husband and myself, opened our homes. We invited in friends, strangers…and their dogs. (I know you’ll approve, Margie, being a dog-lover.)
Family, friends, and strangers piled into our house during Hurricane Irma. So many people told others to “Come right in!”
Students’ observations often surprise and delight me. One kindergarten girl noted that Raccoon wore a scarf on the May I Come In? cover, the same way Bear wore a scarf on the cover of Lost. Found. I’m embarrassed to say I hadn’t thought about this before! I explained that I’d written in my Lost. Found. art notes that Bear was wearing a red scarf, but in May I Come In? my illustrator, Jennie Poh, had decided to give Raccoon a scarf, this one bright orange.
Jennie’s art is so fitting for my story. One of my favorite spreads is Raccoon looking into the distance at a light, “glimmering and shimmering,” inviting him to journey on. This is also the cover of the book. Red seems the perfect color for the door beneath the light. The color red is pleasing here and stands out, but a red front door also has a lot of meaning. The Chinese consider red to be a lucky color and it certainly was for Raccoon. The bright colors that Jennie uses are appealing – red door, orange scarf, purple umbrella. Even in the dark spreads, the colors help keep the story from being scary.
On the last page of the book, readers will find the copyright and dedications. My dedication reads, “Especially for my husband, Frederick Oak Arnold, who always makes room for friends.” I dedicated the book to him because he’s always opening the door to friends and strangers alike, sometimes too much for his introverted wife. He’s willing to come to the rescue of anyone who needs him. That might mean picking someone up at the airport (even if it’s three hours away), buying someone lunch, or calling a sick friend. He epitomizes the spirit of May I Come In? – friendship, inclusion, a helping hand. Finding someone he can help makes him happy.
My hope is that May I Come In? will help children understand that happiness truly does come from opening our hearts…and our doors…to others.
You are welcome to “come right in” to Marsha’s website to explore more about her books and school visits at www.marshadianearnold.com.