It's been raining off and on for days over the past two weeks but yesterday and today it's been raining for almost twenty hours. Our thirsty ground is sighing with pure happiness. Vibrant green lawns now carpet the neighborhood. The soothing, steady sound of the rain on the roof and windows is a reminder of the power of weather.
For those traveling under the gray skies, rain and evening fog, caution is taken on the highways, roads and streets. Home in the Rain (Candlewick Press, June 13, 2017) written and illustrated by Australian Bob Graham is about a journey on such a night. The ordinary is transformed into memorable moments.
"Goodbye, Francie," said Grandma. "You both take care.
It's wet out there and such a long way home."
Francie and her mom are driving through rain so heavy traffic slows. Their windshield wipers are unable to keep up with the flow. A huge truck and trailer sends up a blast of water as it passes moving them into a picnic area.
Animals in the field are finding shelter from the rain. A bird of prey can't seem to find the meal it is seeking. Fishermen are drenched but ducks happily swim in the canal.
Home is far away for Francie, her Mom and Baby Sister. (Her Mom is pregnant.) As their car's glass fogs, Francie writes three names on the windows. Daddy, out working at sea, covers the entire front windshield.
As mother and daughter take a much needed rest and eat a lunch packed by Francie's grandmother, they chat about a possible name for the baby. They wonder about her arrival and when Francie's dad will come home. Miles and miles closer to home, Francie and her mom stop with other travelers. No one else notices what happens there but Francie will carry it in her heart and mind always.
When Bob Graham frames this story, he does so within the larger setting in which it takes place. By doing this we can understand and appreciate how life-changing events can take place surrounded by normalcy. He explains the exact activities of wildlife, the fishermen at the canal and those people stopped at the service station. He gives us their names to bring us into the same scene as Francie and her mom. These observations are maintained as the journey continues to indicate the passage of time. Here is a sample passage.
Young Marcus, water
running down his neck,
his fingers smelling of bait,
wished he were somewhere else . . .
while the water ran off the
backs of ducks.
Although the images featured on the front and the back of the matching, opened dust jacket and book case take place at different times, Bob Graham creates them as a single illustration. He does this by extending the background of the countryside and the berry brambles, wildflowers and field animals in the front over the spine to the back. The truck we see on the front is driving in from the left on the back. Francie and her mom are in the little red car on the right of the jacket and case but they are also standing at a critical instance on the left, much closer to readers, as if we are being given a peek at the future within the current context of the rainy highway.
Rendered in watercolor and ink the pictures give readers a panoramic, birds-eye-view of some scenes across two pages, more intimate visuals grouped together on a single page, and single page pictures. Some of the two-page images are close to a particular moment as when the large truck and trailer whooshes by Francie and her mom. We are well aware of the constant rain and overcast sky but Bob Graham also includes spots of color in clothing and vehicles.
It is in the details we are further captivated by this story. On the wall of Grandma's home hangs a painting of a kestrel, a bird mentioned within the narrative. Each time we see the canal with the fishermen and little Marcus, the ducks have moved farther down the waterway. On the overhead highway signage one of the signs reads:
A tiny snail clings to a blade of grass overlooking the highway scene below the hill. As Francie and her mom walk back to their car from inside the station we are given an overview of the area. On one wall someone has written in large letters HOP. A small e is tucked in the right-hard corner.
One of my many favorite illustrations is when Francie and her mom stop at the picnic area. The perspective is of them sitting inside the car. Francie has moved up front with her mom. They both have their shoes off and their lunch is finished. Francie is lying down with her head on her mom's stomach, feeling her tiny sister moving inside. On the back right window we can see where Francie has written her name. This is a very personal moment; a snapshot of love.
In a word Home in the Rain written and illustrated by Bob Graham is beautiful. In this story he reminds readers how in the most everyday circumstances brief minutes of sheer wonder exist. I am looking forward to reading this aloud with students. I highly recommend it for your professional shelves and personal collections. The Children's Book Council of Australia gave it The Picture Book Of The Year award.
To take a peek at interior images visit the publisher's website (Penguin Random House) here and (Candlewick Press) here. At Walker Books are printable Classroom Ideas pages. Enjoy this video by Candlewick Press of Bob Graham talking about picture books.
Author and illustrator Bob Graham discusses picture books from Candlewick Press on Vimeo.
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