Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Meteorological Moments

For those whose livelihood depends on the weather; farmers, fishermen, builders of bridges, roadways and homes, or airlines, railroads and other forms of transportation (to name a few) accurate forecasts are vital.  Some rely on generations of folklore, observations of the natural world, to predict daily, weekly, seasonal or yearly shifts in patterns.  The National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, depends on the expertise of climatologists and meteorologists, highly technical equipment and computer programming in order to provide the best, most up-to-date and extended weather information.

Having lost count of the number of times

Red sky at night, sailor's delight
Red sky in morning, sailor's warning

has been uttered in my presence and having witnessed the veracity of this lore, I've often wondered if there is a scientific basis for these occurrences.  Author Kathleen V. Kudlinski and illustrator Sebastia Serra answer this question among many others in Boy, Were We Wrong About the Weather! (Dial Books For Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, July 7, 2015).   Let's go back to 1500 B.C.

Long, long ago, before people knew anything about the weather, even mighty Sumerian warriors were frightened by wild storms. 

They were certain their weather god, Enlil, was in a bad mood.  It was thought dancing might make him happier.  Today there is a scientific explanation for lightning and thunder involving jumping water droplets inside a cloud.  Spanish explorers took home the beliefs of the Taino Indians as to the cause of the killer storms they encountered.  If only those who ridiculed their frightening tales knew the truth of hurricanes.

A learned scholar in Greece taught the four elements, earth, air, wind and fire, as the cause of weather.  Now we know the sun, land forms, natural disasters and human transformation of the land figure prominently in forecasting.  You will be surprised to know how he did play a part in naming the science of weather.

Not dragonflies but water and dust can foretell a storm.  A drop in air pressure, indicating a shift in weather, measured by a barometer works best.  The ancient belief of the weather being generated all the way to the stars we now know to be untrue.  Our atmosphere only goes so high.

Climate changes have happened over the course of thousands of years in the past.  Today, people's lifestyle choices are speeding up the process at an alarming rate.  Global warming is generating uncommon weather worldwide.  Scientists will continue to collect, monitor and dispense gathered data to understand weather.

By presenting weather first in a historical context, Kathleen V. Kudlinski sets the stage for using her title phrase as a connection to disclosing the truth as we know it today.  She seeks to introduce the most interesting points about the past and explanations of the present.  Of particular interest is her opening the discussion about current climate change and global warming in light of those events in the past. Her sentences are conversational and easily understood by the intended audience. Here is another sample passage.

People have never liked being surprised by the weather.  So they searched for ways to predict it in advance.  The ancient Chinese thought that if a dragonfly was seen flying up and down instead of sideways, it meant rain was coming.
Boy, were they wrong! 

Rendered in pencil and computer graphics Sebastia Serra begins our weather journey by combining the past with the present on the matching dust jacket and book case.  This illustration crosses the spine to continue on the back to the left.  It's a wild storm with funneling winds off the coast of a community from the past.  As then yields to now, the wild weather gives way to a sunny day.  The prominent shade of blue on the jacket and case is used on both the opening and closing endpapers.  The barometer held by the girl on the front is shown in better detail on the title page.

With a page turn Serra takes readers through the four seasons on the verso and dedication pages.  As on the jacket and case his use of vibrant colors with animated characters, human and animal, supplies us with lively images.  Most of his visuals cover two pages.  At times he chooses to place a smaller picture within the larger whole.  There are some single page pictures, edge to edge or framed in white, assisting readers in pausing during the narrative.

His images are brimming with details creating entire worlds or a specific moment, altering our perspective as the text dictates.  Your eyes go to the image, read the text, and then go back to examine the story told in the illustration.  Humor appears when you least expect it.

One of my favorite pictures is of the classroom engaged in listening to a presentation about the water cycle.  The arrangement of the desks, the decor, the diversity of the students and the blend of a chalk board with a computer screen is in sync with the text.  The student with a stop watch, timing the seconds between lightning and thunder during the storm, shows a high level of interest.  This classroom exemplifies the entire book, lively and informative.

Boy, Were We Wrong About the Weather! written by Kathleen V. Kudlinski with illustrations by Sebastia Serra is a science book with high appeal to all readers.  Everyone who reads this will leave knowing something new.  It entertains, explains and invites us to explore more about our weather and climate.  At the conclusion of the book a time line is listed along with two websites for gathering more information.

To become acquainted with Kathleen V. Kudlinski and Sebastia Serra please follow the links embedded in their names to access their respective websites.

I truly enjoy adding my blog post to the list of others at Kid Lit Frenzy each week.  I continue to be thankful to educator Alyson Beecher for hosting the 2015 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.  Make sure you check out some of the other titles.  There are some outstanding recommendations this week.


  1. I'll have to check this out, Margie! My husband makes fun of me about how interested I am in the weather. ;-) I'll have to read this book to add to my obsession!

    1. I have been a weather nut all my life. I check NOAA several times a day and like reading the forecast discussions. This book has your name on it.

  2. I love this series, I wrote about it a couple of times this summer. I think there is so much you can do with it in a school setting!

    1. This is the second book in this series with which I am familiar. I enjoy the artwork of this illustrator the best. There are so many topics of research which could be pursued.