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Review of Home in the Rain

Home in the Rain
by Bob Graham; illus. by the author
Primary    Candlewick    32 pp.
6/17    978-0-7636-9269-8    $16.99

Francie and her pregnant mom are driving home from Grandma’s in a bucketing rain — perilously, it feels. When their little red car is forced off the highway by a huge truck, they (safely) pull off into a roadside picnic area. There the two share a snack and conversation: what will the new baby’s name be? When will Daddy, “working far out to sea,” be home? Graham merges this intimate, contained, fogged-up-windows story with a much larger one, expanding his reach to include several animals in the underbrush along the highway; a miserable, wet young fisherman named Marcus; a family of ducks; two drivers arguing over a fender bender. And somehow, in typical Graham fashion, all the stories matter, and they all build to a moment that Francie “would remember forever”: mid–mundane act of filling up the car with gas, Francie’s mother realizes that the baby’s name will be Grace. The story is told through an occasionally poetic text (“…and not looking where it was going, the countryside ran straight into the edge of the highway, bringing with it the faint smell of farmyards”) and watercolor illustrations that are both down-to-earth and transcendent. The sterile, generic gas station sports graffiti reading “hope”; a soda can nestles in a clump of wildflowers; oil in a puddle makes “rainbows around Francie’s toes.” The message is clear (see also the John Updike quote on the dedication page) but delivered without sentimentality; and the happy ending — a field mouse safe in its burrow; a hot bath for Marcus; a surprise reunion for Francie and her mom; and sunshine for all — feels absolutely right.

From the September/October 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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