Come rain or shine, many situations in life are beyond our control. Two new picture books by debut authors offer insight into reframing attitudes and considering different perspectives.
The titular character in Sunny, by St. Catharines, Ontario, author-illustrator Celia Krampien, is a positive-thinking gal. “Most people would say there is nothing good about trudging to school on a rainy day … But not Sunny.” The buoyant child joins the sullen, mopey procession with a peppy step, happy for the opportunity to use her big, sunflower-yellow umbrella, even as the wind picks up and lifts her off the ground. “Most people would say that being pulled through the air by an umbrella was a bad sort of situation.” But not Sunny, who enjoys the bird’s-eye view. Her circumstances continue to take a nosedive, as Sunny is blown out to sea, trapped in a small boat, and stranded on top of a rock. Throughout her trials, Sunny manages to hold on to her umbrella, as well as her optimism.
Sunny’s resilience is a shining beacon and she stands out in the muted backgrounds of land and ocean. Krampien’s digital illustrations offer unique perspectives of their own, from a detailed aerial shot of the bustling tiny town’s morning activity – including crossing guards directing traffic and residents walking their dogs – to a vertical spread that captures Sunny’s descent into choppy waters.
The sardonic contrast between the conventional reactions to Sunny’s predicaments and her glass-half-full appraisal ramps up the dramatic tension. Everyone has a breaking point, and Sunny meets her Waterloo when her sole companion, a seagull, flies away, leaving her utterly alone. Looking realistically worse for wear, her hair in a dishevelled windswept tangle and her brolly snapped inside out, she finally comes undone and starts to cry. But a supportive flock of feathered friends lifts Sunny up.
Told with tongue-in-cheek, understated humour, Sunny’s narration never drowns in preciousness or succumbs to sappiness.
In Rain Boy, by Toronto animator Dylan Glynn, kids take one look at a blue, puffy cumulus cloud – with googly eyes and a wary grin – and assume he’s just a drip. Rain Boy also gets a bad reputation for muddying soccer fields and ruining plein-air painting excursions.
It’s a different story for Sun Kidd, a little girl with a halo of auburn curls who comes “from somewhere on the other side of the planet.” With her infectious, warm aura, she makes friends easily. Sun Kidd likes Rain Boy and invites him to her birthday bash. Rain Boy creates a small soaker in the basement rec room, but it is his classmates who put a damper on the party with their destructive intolerance, hostile accusations, and hurtful slurs of “Rain, Rain, go away!”
In the messy aftermath, Rain Boy unleashes his feelings of alienation, humiliation, and loneliness by way of a whirling storm that doesn’t let up for months. Given time and reflection, the townspeople realize positive things about the constant rain: families are “talking to each other a lot more,” and kids have fun in a “wet wonderland.” Feeling loved for the first time, Rain Boy stops raging, invites Sun Kidd in, and lets loose a rainbow.
The straightforward text is relatable and honest, while Glynn’s naive watercolour, cut paper, pastel, and coloured pencil illustrations are prismatic and surreal.
Stylized characters move across the pages with the fluidity and intricacy of a dance, from the chaotic mosh pit full of angry, open-mouthed wails and flailing limbs at the birthday party gone wrong to the children’s graceful jetés over shimmering puddles after the storm.
Reflective and multilayered, this picture book is a potent fable about acceptance and appreciation of differences.