In September’s MTYT, Jean Schroeder and Holly Johnson discuss the last of four books that topped USBBY’s Outstanding International Books list. The common theme between these books is the need to escape. In When the Rain Comes, the main character needs to escape a natural disaster. This story shows how a young girl must deal with the immediate crisis and do what she can to save her own life and the livelihood her village.
Jean: A young girl, Malini, is ready to learn how to plant rice seedlings which will provide food for her family and her village. She is asked to watch the ox and cart, but a strong storm threatens to wash them all away in a flash flood. Oh my goodness! This story is set in Sri Lanka, a place I have actually been! And it is so true, ox carts are numerous as well as cows wandering the streets. I was not there during the rainy season but have experience flash flooding here in Arizona and the fear and damage such a storm can cause is very real. I love the simplicity of language and the repetitive words describing the sounds of everyday living and the louder sounds of the storm. Even with so few words the author has created the tension that come with impending danger. This book has brought to mind many of the images of my trip. I am struck by the beauty of the illustrations and the beauty of the country which are in opposition to the hard lives many of the people in Sri Lanka live.
Holly: What a beautiful book about such a terrible phenomenon! The reality, however, is that flooding happens across the world and has the potential for great destruction. The young protagonist in this picturebook has some real spunk and AGENCY. I think this is a wonderful book to share with young people, showing Malini’s responsibility but also the danger of flooding. How would you use this book, Jean?
Jean: Hhmmm – I might use this book in a study of weather or of the country of Sri Lanka or as an introduction to a different culture. I think the fact that this fairly young girl will be learning how to plant a major source of nourishment for her family and perhaps her community might be difficult for children here to grasp. Malini also seemed to understand the value of the ox as well as its potential as a danger. She realizes the role such an animal plays in their daily lives – as important as cars and grocery stores in our lives. What I notice about all these stories is the need to flee. Whether it is escaping a cycle, persecution, a war, or a natural disaster survival takes all kinds of nerve and steadfastness.
Holly: Disasters and potential disasters were evident throughout these books! That makes them so real, and of importance for all readers, but especially for younger readers, who may hear about disasters but have little knowledge of what is currently happening or historically happened. In essence, I can see using these books as a text set on disasters, but also for opening up the world for readers who may hear about the flooding and fires in the USA, as well as the news about Syria and Afghanistan. We are connected to those around the world in all kinds of ways, but certainly in respect to political unrest, human suffering, and natural disasters.
Title: When the Rain Comes
Author: Alma Fullerton
Illustrator: Kim LaFave
Publisher: Pajama Press
Date Published: February 8, 2017
This is the last installment of September’s issue of My Take/Your Take. You can find the first, second and third installments on our site. Check back in October to see what books we’ve selected and to follow the conversation!