Quote of the Month

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

Friday, March 10, 2023

Weathering The Weather

Sometimes the beginning is as subtle as a change in the air.  It feels a bit charged or heavier or both.  The breeze gets a bit stronger.  Looking skyward, the shape of clouds and their color is quickly transforming.  A disturbance is threatening.

Birds gather near the shore or in trees.  In the distance, rumbling begins as the sky darkens.  Writer Laura Purdie Salas and artist Elly MacKay collaborate to vividly portray this usually sudden shift in the weather in Zap! Clap! Boom!: The Story Of A Thunderstorm (Bloomsbury Children's Books, February 28, 2023).

Sunny day sits warm and dry.
No wind,
no rain,
no stormy sky.

Morning's calm.
Outside is still.
A blue forever day,

until . . .

Without us being aware, warmer air is moving upward toward the cooler clouds.  They start to fill and get larger, gathering overhead.  In the distance loud sounds partner with gray skies and blowing winds.  Spears of light fork downward in the distance.

Rumbles roll through the air, shattering any remaining silence.  Rain begins to drop, slow at first, then faster.  The breeze is now a howling wind.  The sounds are nearly deafening.

Shelter is sought and shelter is found.  Children snuggle inside, safe from the tumult.  The thunder shakes the walls, the lightning flashes on and off, the wind sings like a banshee, and the rain pounds on the windows.

Then, after what seems like minutes (or sometimes longer), the thunderstorm moves to cast its chaos on another place.  Those on the inside slowly venture to the outside, savoring the clear air, the rain-washed spaces and calming breaths of air.  Everything feels new.  Let's play!

The writing, the poetry, of Laura Purdie Salas has entertained and educated us for more than two decades.  In this title her rousing rhythms woven with words move through the pages like a thunderstorm.  They begin and end with a soothing quiet, coming to a crescendo in the center with the title words repeated three different times.  Laura Purdie Salas uses poetic techniques, rhyme, metaphor, and alliteration, like a master.  Here is a passage.

Swollen clouds begin to drain,


In looking at the open and matching dust jacket and book case, readers feel the full force of the thunderstorm on the front, right side.  Trees bend in the wind and rain diagonally cuts across the view.  Dark clouds release roaring thunder and jagged lightning. We wonder how the residents of the hilly island are surviving.  

To the left of the spine, on the back, we see the left side of the island in a closer view as the storm lessens and moves away.  The breeze is still brisk, but the sky is beginning to lighten.  The land seems to be holding its breath.

On the opening endpapers, we are given a panoramic perspective of the top of the island.  Three children play with a red ball.  The land, trees, shrubs, and homes are kissed with morning sunlight.  Bathed in deeper hues of golden yellow, the same scene shows the aftermath of the wild weather on the closing endpapers. The children stand, this time, together as silhouettes.  The ball is at the feet of one of them.

A two-page picture supplies a background for the verso and title page text.  A small barn is tucked at the base of a series of rocky slopes.  Traversing those slopes, as the sun rises, are a goat and two leaping kids.

Each of the full-color double-page images in this book portrays three children and three goats on this island pleasantly enjoying the company of each other.  In subsequent page turns we see what the goats are doing separately before, during and after the thunderstorm.  When the children are running toward home, the goats are running toward their shelter.  As the goats look out the front of their barn during the storm, the children peer out the window of their home at the wind and rain.

These illustrations by Elly MacKay were 

created three dimensionally with layers of paper.

This artistic style gives a realistic and fluid motion to the children and goats as they are placed in each setting.  The color palette alters to indicate the path of the thunderstorm and how it is reflected in the children and the goats.  The results of this illustrator's skill fashion an immersive experience for readers.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when the children are running home and the rain starts to fall.  The trio are jumping in puddles and leaping over the wet ground.  Behind the figures the dark clouds on the left appear to be chasing them as the sky is a blend of blue and purple hues.  The rain falls in streaks toward a pebbled surface with pools of water forming.  We are close to the children and can see their delight in this moment.

For those of us who live in areas with four distinct seasons, this book, Zap! Clap! Boom!: The Story Of A Thunderstorm written by Laura Purdie Salas with illustrations by Elly MacKay features a wonderfully true portrayal.  For those who have never experienced a thunderstorm, you will do so in the pages of this book.  At the close of the book is a section titled The Science Behind Storms.  It is divided into three sections, Here Comes The Rain, Lighting Up The Sky, and Boom!  Following this is a short list of Selected Sources and websites, time-lapse videos and books for further exploration.  For a study of seasons, weather, and poetry, this book will be a welcome addition on your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Laura Purdie Salas and Elly MacKay and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  At Laura Purdie Salas's website there is a book trailer, an activity sheet to download, and a video of a Minnesota lightning storm. You will enjoy reading about Elly MacKay's process featured at her website. Laura Purdie Salas has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.  Elly MacKay has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and TwitterAt the publisher's website, you can view interior pages.

1 comment:

  1. Margie, thank you for this astonishingly beautiful and thorough review. What a gift! The illustration you mentioned with the kids is one of my favorites in the whole book. Elly's stunning art really makes this book. Thank you!