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Rain, rain, go away

Tut-tut, it looks like rain! It’s a grey, wet week in Boston. The rain does make a nice break from the heat — but it can also result in stir-crazy kids. These books for preschool and primary children will help brighten up a rainy day.

The following books were recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide at the time of their publication; reviews are reprinted from The Horn Book Guide Online.


Bluemle, Elizabeth  Tap Tap Boom Boom
32 pp.     Candlewick     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-5696-6

Illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Bluemle uses rhymes and rhythms to convey sudden changes in weather: “Sky grumbles. / Rain tumbles…” Collage illustrations show city-dwellers of all ethnicities, ages, and sizes hustling down to the subway to wait out the storm. Karas’s pictures combine painting, drawing, and photographs to show the grit, energy, and beauty of the urban scene and its amusingly quirky people.

de Roo, Elena  The Rain Train
32 pp.     Candlewick     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-5313-2

Illustrated by Brian Lovelock. “The ting of the rain— / Ping-itta-pang…” Climb aboard the Rain Train for a gentle trip through a stormy night. De Roo’s rhyming, lyrical text never derails; the onomatopoeic verse rolls rhythmically along, lulling listeners and moving the action forward. Lovelock’s misty watercolor and ink illustrations, dominated by dusky purples and blues, convey the excitement of a special nighttime journey.

Ehlert, Lois  Rain Fish
40 pp.     Simon/Beach Lane     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-6152-8
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-6153-5

“When blue sky turns to gray and it rains all day, / that’s when rain fish come out and play.” The author-artist has created the titular fish from found objects: sticks, ripped cardboard, a sock, etc.; color photographs of one or more specimens fill each spread in this short-and-wide-format book. The result is striking and strange (in a good way).

Fernandes, Eugenie  Kitten’s Summer
24 pp.     Kids Can     2011
Trade ISBN 978-1-55453-342-8

“Rain falls, / Kitten dashes. / Rabbit races, / Turtle splashes.” As Kitten runs home, she passes by various forest animals also seeking shelter from the rain. The double-page mixed-media collages featuring clay and acrylic paint are impressive. Readers will enjoy seeing their animal friends in their natural habitats; the simple rhyming text would work well with both preschoolers and beginning readers.

Himmelman, John  The Cow Said Meow
32 pp.     Holt     2016
Trade ISBN 978-1-62779-378-0

When a cow sees an old lady letting a meowing cat into the house on a rainy day, the clever cow also meows its way into the house. A succession of other observant rain-drenched animals also gain entrée to the house by meowing. The minimal text consists of animal sounds in speech balloons; the predictable pattern is eventually upended by the irritated kitty. Expressive and amusing art captures the funny animal antics.

Jackson, Richard  This Beautiful Day
40 pp.     Atheneum/Dlouhy     2017
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-4139-1

Illustrated by Suzy Lee. Outside, a summer storm rages. Inside, no problem! For three kids and a dog there are dress-up opportunities, dance music on the radio, and the creative possibilities of an empty cardboard box. When the sky brightens, the children burst out the door, equipped with rain boots and umbrellas — which turn magic, lifting everyone into the sky, Mary Poppins–style. The buoyant, impressionistic text is perfectly matched to joyful acrylic and pencil illustrations.

Martin, David  Peep and Ducky Rainy Day
32 pp.     Candlewick     2015
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-6884-6

Illustrated by David Walker. The two young friends from Peep and Ducky are back, this time having a play date on a less-than-sunny day. The bird pals have fun at Peep’s house, first inside (under a blanketed table) then out (in a kiddie pool in the rain). Gently rounded black outlines filled with pastel colors illustrate the simple rhyming text of this lighthearted romp.

Murguia, Bethanie Deeney  Princess! Fairy! Ballerina!
40 pp.     Scholastic/Levine     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-545-73240-6

Three friends argue over whether to play princesses, fairies, or ballerinas, ending in a stalemate — until the rain distracts all three and they realize that princesses, fairies, and ballerinas can all splash around outside. The all-dialogue text uses a different typeface color to denote each speaker, and pastel-colored illustrations portray the girls’ imagination, stubbornness, and, above all, friendship with humor and verve.

Parker, Mary Jessie  The Deep, Deep Puddle
40 pp.     Dial     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-8037-3765-5

Illustrated by Deborah Zemke. Creatures and objects in increasing number vanish into a rain puddle starting with one shaggy dog, two stray cats, and three thirsty squirrels. This visual and onomatopoeic feast of a counting book is offbeat and hilarious: after twelve workers drain the puddle (Schlurp! Schlurp! Schlurp!), a pile of sopping taxis, tourists, etc. is revealed; they’re back to business as usual in reverse order.

Paul, Miranda  Water Is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle
40 pp.     Roaring Brook/Porter     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-59643-984-9

Illustrated by Jason Chin. An evocative rhyming text and verdant watercolors introduce the water cycle, linking water’s forms to seasonal changes and an interracial family’s kid-friendly activities. The narrative moves from what water is (rain, fog, cloud, snow) to what it makes (mud, which feeds trees, which grow apples, which make cider). Additional information about the water cycle and a call for water conservation are appended. Reading list. Bib.

Phelan, Matt  Druthers
32 pp.     Candlewick     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-5955-4

Penelope is rainy-day bored. Her father asks what she would do if she had her “druthers,” and Penelope decides she would go to the zoo…be a pirate captain…fly to the moon. At each suggestion, Daddy joins enthusiastically in her imaginative play. Phelan captures the duo’s affectionate relationship in expressive ink and watercolor illustrations, alternating between character-revealing vignettes and action-packed double-page spreads.



Ashman, Linda  Rain!
32 pp.     Houghton     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-547-73395-1

Illustrated by Christian Robinson. A grumpy elderly man resents the rain (“Dang puddle”); meanwhile, his young neighbor is overjoyed by it (“It’s raining frogs and pollywogs!”). They both end up at a café, where the boy seizes an opportunity for friendship. This is a wholly fresh story told through short dialogue quips and paint and collage illustrations with remarkably expressive human faces.

Feiffer, Kate  My Side of the Car
32 pp.     Candlewick     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-4405-5

Illustrated by Jules Feiffer. Even though it might be raining on Sadie’s father’s side of the car, it is not raining on her side, and therefore a trip to the zoo doesn’t need to be postponed. As Dad’s side gets more dismal, Sadie’s fills with sunflowers. This triumph of hope over (damp) reality ends on a note of pure joy. Gentle watercolors and a dancing pencil line support the deadpan text.

Gammell, Stephen  Mudkin
32 pp.     Carolrhoda     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-7613-5790-2

An imaginative little girl goes outside to play after a rainstorm. She meets a brown, blobby creature named Mudkin, who takes her, in a mud-constructed coach, to his home and asks her to be his people’s queen. Another rain shower washes the creatures — but not her memories — away. Spare text, all from the girl’s side of the conversation, makes room for Gammell’s trademark spattery illustrations.

Gibbons, Gail  It’s Raining!
32 pp.     Holiday     2014
Trade ISBN 978-0-8234-2924-0

With her usual combination of clear sentences, cheerful pictures, and informative captions, Gibbons explains the water cycle, different kinds of rain and clouds, and storms, briefly touching on pollution’s effects. A center spread features two maps showing rain patterns in North America and worldwide. Final pages explain what to do during storms and give a synopsis of rain facts. Websites.

Gorbachev, Valeri  Catty Jane Who Hated the Rain
32 pp.     Boyds     2012
Trade ISBN 978-1-59078-700-7

Catty Jane hates everything about rain — until her friends throw her a “rainy-day party” during a thunderstorm. Piggy, Froggy, and Goose lift Catty Jane’s spirits with cookies, umbrellas, and dancing. Gray-blue ink and watercolor illustrations convey the stormy weather outside, while soft pastel colors capture the feline’s cozy home.

Gray, Rita  One Big Rain: Poems for Rainy Days
32 pp.     Charlesbridge     2010
Trade ISBN 978-1-57091-716-5

Illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke. Illustrated with an appropriate palette of grays, blues, and olive greens, this anthology of twenty poems quietly celebrates rain. On the whole, the poems favor imagery over bouncy rhyme, with the pictures adding just enough snap to keep things from becoming too sleepy. The book design is invitingly small, and the poems’ placement on the pages is clean and eye-pleasing.

Holub, Joan  Itty Bitty Kitty and the Rainy Play Day
32 pp.     HarperCollins/Harper     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-232220-3

Illustrated by James Burks. One rainy day, Ava and her enormous purple cat, Itty Bitty, are sent outside after wreaking havoc playing indoors. When she discovers Itty Bitty can’t tolerate wet feet, Ava figures out a silly but effective way to help him out. Playful language spices up the narrative, while exaggeration in the action-packed illustrations complements Itty Bitty’s larger-than-life presence.

Lichtenheld, Tom  Cloudette
40 pp.     Holt/Ottaviano     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-8050-8776-5

While Cloudette doesn’t mind being small, she aspires to do something big-cloud important, like make a garden grow or a waterfall flow. When she comes across a desperate frog in a dried-out pond, she finally finds her inspiration — and lets loose. Invitingly unfussy mixed-media illustrations, heavy on the sky-blue, and thoughtful book design, including entertaining cloud-peanut-gallery comments, give flavor to Cloudette’s journey.

Liniers  The Big Wet Balloon
40 pp.     Candlewick/TOON     2013
Trade ISBN 978-1-935179-32-0

Toon Book series. Matilda teaches her little sister Clemmie how to catch raindrops on her tongue, jump in puddles, and search for worms, as pictured in the panels of this early-reader comic. Amidst her excitement, Matilda releases Clemmie’s precious red birthday balloon into the sky. It’s a tender, accurate depiction of sister dynamics, and Liniers’s multihued cartoon drawings capture the siblings’ distinct, expressive personalities.

All the Water in the WorldLyon, George Ella  All the Water in the World
40 pp.     Atheneum/Jackson     2011
Trade ISBN 978-1-4169-7130-6

Illustrated by Katherine Tillotson. Lyon celebrates the essence of life itself in a lyrical poem about the water cycle. In sweeping, digitally rendered art resembling watercolor and collage, Tillotson creates luxuriant ocean swirls and pelting streaks of rain. It’s a familiar subject but a vital one, to which author and illustrator bring a passion and artistry that give it the power of story.

Markle, Sandra  Toad Weather
32 pp.     Peachtree     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-56145-818-9

Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez. One rainy March night, a girl and her mother and grandmother, donning slickers and rain boots, head to a busy city street to see something special: the yearly migration of toads in Philadelphia’s Roxborough neighborhood to a reservoir to mate and lay eggs. Glistening, photorealistic mixed-media illustrations set the perfect milieu for this unique annual urban phenomenon. An author’s note lends additional context.

Miyares, Daniel  Float
40 pp.     Simon     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-1524-8
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-1525-5

A boy and his caregiver fold a paper boat, then he pretends to sail it outside. After a downpour, the boat floats for real — into a sewer grate. Once comforted at home, the boy soon ventures out again with a paper airplane, this time embracing the moment his creation is set free. With a limited palette, each wordless scene is full of reflection, shadow, and texture.

Sayre, April Pulley  Raindrops Roll
40 pp.     Simon/Beach Lane     2015
Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-2064-8
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-2065-5

Captivating photos picture an oncoming storm, followed by shots of raindrops in various stages, configurations, and contexts, such as on a katydid’s back or splashing into a stream. Sayre subtly explains the nuances of these appearances in minimal poetic phrases that use alliteration, onomatopoeia, and occasional rhyme and that closely follow the photographs. Scientific information about rain, the water cycle, and more is appended. Reading list.

Yum, Hyewon  Puddle
40 pp.     Farrar     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-374-31695-2

“I hate rainy days” declares a grumpy boy. “Do you want to draw?” asks his mom; “Okay. I’ll draw by myself then,” she says. A mother turns a boring rainy afternoon into an exciting one with crayon-drawn (and, eventually, real) puddle-splashing. In this meta making-the-best-of-it story, Yum draws readers in by turning the family’s art project into the story. Childlike illustrations pop against stark white backgrounds.


Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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