Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, March 17, 2016

When It Won't Go Away

The first big rain storm after winter when the ground has yet to thaw is a laughter factory.  If it happens to rain all morning but decides to stop before lunch with sunshine breaking through the gathered clouds, it's cause for rejoicing by the adults and students in an elementary school.  Absolutely no one likes indoor recess.

When your school library has a wall of windows facing the playground you have a front row seat to the production of comedy beginning almost immediately.  With standing water everywhere, it's an open invitation irresistible to any child.  If one of the neighborhood dogs should join the hoopla, it is so much the better.  Puddle (Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, March 8, 2016) written and illustrated by Hyewon Yum is a rainy day romp; characters rejoicing in the potency of imagination and the sheer fun to be found when rain falls.

I hate rainy days.

A little guy is in the midst of a major pout because he can't go outside to play.  You really can't ride your bike or kick a soccer goal inside your home.  When his mom suggests he draw, he answers with a resounding


Their conversation wakes the snoozing cat and resting dog.  Mom decides to draw without her son but his curiosity causes him to slowly approach the table where she is working.  Three sets of eyes (two of the furry, four-footed variety) watch as she creates a blue umbrella.

Her son requests she draw him holding his umbrella.  So he won't be lonely, Mom adds herself and their dog, Billy.  It seems one essential element is missing. Rain!  Grasping the blue crayon, the boy remedies this problem.

The boy, his mom and Billy find themselves trudging through a downpour.  A tantalizing temptation looms ahead.  Mom yells.  Her son surrenders with abandon.  Shrieks and shakes follow.  Wait a minute.  Is this real?

Told entirely in conversation between the boy and his mother Hyewon Yum builds an excellent venue for a participatory reading experience.  Yum's word choices could not be better for portraying a crabby child lured out of a bad mood and a mother's patience in light of the unfolding situation.  Not only do we come to understand both of the characters' personalities but we realize the respect and love they have for each other.  It's also an enriching exercise in the art of storytelling.  Here is a sample passage.

Okay, I'll draw me next to you.

And draw Billy, too.

That's a tricky one.
And I don't like wet dog smell.

Mom, please. 

How can you not smile when looking at the front of the matching dust jacket and book case?  That boy and his dog are in a complete state of bliss jumping in the puddle.  Shades of primary and secondary colors are used here and throughout the interior of the book.  Although not stated the medium, based upon the texture and lines, appears to be mixed.

The opening and closing endpapers begin with a canvas of white like drawing paper.  The former shows a series of puddles and falling rain in the signature blue.  At the back two characters in a sequence of four separate moments and a bright yellow and red have been added.  Beneath the text, looking as if block printed, on the title page, the boy with his umbrella is running in the rain.

For most of the images with the exception of those focusing on the drawing being done on the table, the background is white allowing for our attention to focus on the characters and their activities.  There is a subtle layer of humor in these illustrations evident in the facial expressions and body postures.  We also are aware when the images have moved from reality to drawings and then back to reality based upon color intensity and the firmness of the outlines.

One illustration in particular is a favorite of mine.  It spans two pages (as most of them do).  It's a close-up of the table with a drawing pad in the left foreground.  The blue umbrella has been drawn.  The family cat, taking up most of the left side of the page, is walking on the picture.  Peering over the edge of the table on the right is Billy and the little boy.  A box of crayons and two crayons, red and blue, are on the table.  The eyes on Billy and the little boy are curious and captivated.

You and your readers are going to love Puddle written and illustrated by Hyewon Yum for its delightfully inventive and realistic adventure on one rainy day.  I'll be willing to predict readers will be reaching for crayons, colored pencils and drawing paper after reading this title.  They will want to create their own stories.

If you would like to learn more about Hyewon Yum and her other work please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images including a portion of my favorite one.  Hyewon Yum was a guest at Scholastic's Ambassador for School Libraries John Schumacher's blog Watch. Connect. Read.  She was also featured at author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  The pronunciation of her name is highlighted at TeachingBooks.net.  Enjoy the book trailer.

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