Thursday, July 12, 2012

RAIN by Peter Spier

Spier, Peter. Rain. Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1982. ISBN 0-385-24105-4.

What a gorgeous, sigh-inducing book! Peter Spier’s Rain follows two children on their adventures during a rainy day, starting with them rushing inside when the rain begins and illustrating their day all the way through to bedtime and the next morning.

The brother and sister don galoshes, raincoats, and a giant umbrella and trot off into their neighborhood for a day of exploration in the rain. They stand below overflowing gutters, put their hands under drain pipes, and squish their fingers through the mess in a wet sandbox. They splash through puddles, admire a glistening spider web, and dump a wheelbarrow full of water. During their exploits they encounter numerous animals, from squirrels to cardinals to mice to raccoons. They watch ducks swimming in a rain-drenched pond, they find a cat curled up under a parked truck for shelter from the wet, and they see a neighbor’s dog watching the rain from his doghouse.

Back at home, the siblings remove their wet clothes and pass them into their mother’s waiting hands. After a bath and dry clothes, they play with a block set in the living room while waiting for dinner with their parents. The family dog and cat are always nearby. Nighttime brings sleeping and a clearing sky. Brother and sister awaken to a sun-drenched morning and a backyard alight with water reflecting the sun.

For an adult, this book is a sumptuous trip down memory lane, bringing to mind the simpler days of the early 1980s, when children went outside in the rain and played with blocks instead of video games. For a child, the book is a awash with visual delight and the innocence of childhood. Spier’s illustrations are gorgeous and intricate, with numerous little touches that show dozens of aspects of a life. In the children’s backyard alone, the pages ramble with garden flowers and birds, a sandbox, an errant hose, a woodpile, a playful dog and cat, a full shed, and pet rabbits with their snack of lettuce and carrots. Almost every page is alight with detailed drawings, and in the more simple illustrations, Spier manages to evoke the precise way rain pools on the ground and the way the background of trees and homes turns gray in a deluge. The story is told entirely with pictures, and every detail makes each moment something worth poring over.

In addition to a childlike sense of wonder at a rain-soaked world, Spier’s work elicits moments of vivid childhood memory, like the feeling of standing in a rainy street as water surges past your feet to make its escape down the drain, With moments like that in this book, Spier creates more than a story about two kids playing in the rain; he creates an emotional response to a universal experience.

Jill Coste

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