Rain by Manja Stojic
Pavilion, 2016. ISBN 9781843653059
Picture book. On the African savannah the animals are waiting for the rains as the soil cracks from the hot, dry, unending sun. Porcupine can smell the rain; Zebra can see the lightning and Baboon can hear the thunder. Rhino feels the first drops and then Lion can taste it. It rains and rains and rains but even after it stops it continues to bring comfort to the animals. Until the whole cycle starts again.
As the vegetation of south-east Australia withers beneath an unrelenting heatwave and that of central regions blooms under record rains, this is a most timely story to share with young readers learning about the cycle of weather and its impact on the environment. Using simple, cumulative language and big, bold type and pictures that encourage young listeners to join in, it introduces them to a climate that might be very different from that which they experience as well as encouraging them to think about how we are as dependent on rain as those on the African savannah. By focusing on how the animals use their senses to predict the rain, it also offers an opportunity to explore how animals more common to them use their senses - such as a dog's dependence on smell - as well as how humans use theirs.
In her debut book for children, Stojic has used colour very well to contrast the dry, cracked, sunburnt landscape with that after the rains have fallen. For those where rain brings such a change to the landscape, this could encourage some interesting before/after artwork from children with the focus on colour and hot and cool tones. For those who are ready, there could also be a focus on adjectives as Stojic has carefully chosen her words to depict that which can't be shown in pictures. The relationship between text and pictures is such that even youngest readers would be able to 'read' it for themselves.
What seems a simple book on the surface has a depth that makes it more than a one-off read-aloud.