Today is the start of the UK’s Children’s Book Week, a celebration of reading for pleasure for children of primary school age (5-11) with special events taking place all over the country in schools, libraries and bookshops. 79 years old and going from strength to strength, the theme of this year’s Children’s Book Week is “books from around the world“.
As part of Children’s Book Week a special pack has been created (primarily with teachers in mind, but available to anyone to download) including book lists relating to this year’s theme for different age groups, for example:
For younger children:
For emerging readers
Poetry from around the world:
For 5-7 year olds one of the featured books is The Day The Rains Fell by Anne Faundez and Karin Littlewood. I loved Littlewood’s illustrations in The Colour Of Home (included in my round up of books for National Refugee Week), so I was keen to get hold of The Day The Rains Fell to read with M and J.
The Day The Rains Fell is an African creation story. Lindiwe and her daughter Thandi descend from the sky to visit Lindiwe’s creations – animals and landscapes around the word – to check that all is well with them. Although pleased with what they see, they realise that something is missing: life-giving rain.
Not only does Lindiwe the ensure that the rains do fall, she also creates pools from clay pots for water to collect in.
Lindiwe spoke to the animals.
“From this day on, when it rains
my pots will fill with water and
you will enver go thirsty again.”
Whilst Lindiwe was creating pots, Thandi used some clay to create beads. To thank Thandi and her mother for the rains, the animals use their plumage, skin and scales to colour the beads (“…Flamingo used her feather to paint some beads pink. Zebra rolled on his beads to turn them black and white…”) creating a glorious, rainbow necklace for Thandi to wear.
Both girls and I enjoyed the story, especially over a very wet weekend as we’ve just had, where it has been good to be reminded how important rain is! Although it does not detract from the storytelling in the book I have not been able to establish whether this creation myth is one actually based on an African tradition, or simply a creation (no pun intended) from the head of the author.
Nathalie Mvondo, who writes at the wonderful Multiculturalism Rocks! helped me out with some background; there are indeed several earth creator goddesses in various African traditions (such as Ala, an Ibo/Nigerian goddess incarnating Mother Earth or Asase Ya an Ashanti creator goddess), but none that she or I could immediately identify as Lindiwe or Thandi.
Given that at the end of the book there is a double page spread contextualising the manufacture and importance of pots and beads in Africa, a note on the cultural/religious context of this story would have fitted in very naturally. Perhaps its absence is explained if this version of the creation myth is not one that is actually documented in Africa.
Leaving aside issues that are perhaps mainly the interest of cultural scholars, what really stands out in this book is the visual imagery. Vivid, bold, but also tender, Karin Littlewood’s watercolour illustrations are sumptuous. Her characterizations of African animals is spot on – they are beautiful, noble and yet full of the fun that is so appealing to young children. If you’d like to see for yourself what I mean, several illustrations from The Day The Rains Fell can be seen here on Karin Littlewood’s website.
As well as being a thoughtful, interesting story, with illustrations full of brilliance and colour, The Day The Rains Fell offers so many possibilities for further play. Our immediate response was to make some colourful bracelets, inspired by the lovely necklaces in the book.
First we used food colouring to paint handfuls of cheerios.
In the process we ate quite a few cheerios and spread food colouring all over the place.
Once the food colouring had dried (we left our “beads” to dry over night), we threaded them on to long pipecleaners.
We filled up our pipecleaners with our colourful beads and then twisted the ends together to complete our bracelets. Easy peasy, surprisingly beautiful and rather satisfying to make.
The Day The Rains Fell: ** (2 stars)
Music to enjoy alongside this lovely book could include:
Further ideas for games and creativity inspired by The Day The Rains Fell include:
A nonfiction book which would pair up brilliantly with The Day The Rains Fell is Animal Colors: A Rainbow Of Colors from Animals Around the World, which I first discovered thanks to this review at Wild About Nature. Another book I can’t wait to read Karin Littlewood’s newest book, which came out last month – Immi. It looks like a winner!