A book about making the most of a situation, of living by the motto ‘Carpe diem’, of seeing the glass half-full rather than half-empty, Ernest & Celestine: The Picnic by Gabrielle Vincent is a perfect read for a rainy summer’s day.
It may be pouring down outside, but that doesn’t mean Ernest and Celestine cannot have their picnic. Oh no, they pack their hamper and hats and set off into the drizzle before finding the perfect spot to build a shelter in which they feast and have fun. For a brief moment it looks like their bubble will be burst by a grumpy landowner who wants to shoo them off his estate, but generosity, optimism and kindness win the day in this utterly charming and heart-warming tale.
This optimistic (cynics might say ‘rose tinted’) view of the world, where friends have a can-do attitude, and faith in people being basically generous and good if you’ll only give them the opportunity to be so, reflects exactly the sort of approach to life I want to pass on to my kids. The delicate colouring of the illustrations suggest faded images from a time gone by, whilst the beautifully drawn animals look invitingly huggable. The warmth and gentleness of the illustrations perfectly mirror the relationship between Ernest (the older caregiver) and Celestine (his younger charge), but the slightly mad idea of actually building a den and picnicking in it whilst it pours brings a delicious dose of excitement, almost craziness to this cosy tale.
The interaction between the text and the images also makes reading this book an interesting experience; the text consists entirely of dialogue between the characters without making explicit who is saying what, so readers/listeners have to do a little more work than is sometimes the case with picture books to follow the narrative. This has the effect of slowing down the reading, allowing space and time to contemplate the illustrations and relationships.
Tent building, splashing in puddles, fabulous feasting (I love it that Ernest seems to be drinking wine at the picnic!), and a reassuring, comforting relationship between adult and child all add up to an utterly gorgeous book in both spirit and execution.
Can you guess what we just had to do after reading this book?
Yes, we did indeed had to give picnicking in the rain a go 😉
The kids were so incredibly excited by the prospect – for once we spent quite a few days waiting eagerly for rain to fall! When a wet afternoon eventually arrived, we built a shelter using our washing line, a couple of large tarpaulins and some bricks and a bench. For a luxurious touch we included our camping mats and a sleeping bag.
I was quite taken aback by just how thrilling the kids thought this was – they really thought it was a hoot to be outside (but undercover) whilst it rained and it was pretty much impossible to get them to come in.
A good supply of food and books meant it was actually past bedtime when I dragged them indoors, with the promise that yes, they could have breakfast in their shelter the following morning.
Whilst “playing by the book” we were outside in the rain so we didn’t listen to any music, but here’s an eclectic rain-themed mini play list:
Apart from picnicking in the rain here are some other activities which would work well alongside reading The Picnic:
For an alternative take on having a picnic when it’s raining outdoors, do take a look at Florentine and the Pig and the Lost Pirate Treasure by Eva Katzler and Jess Mikhail. Instead of venturing outdoors for their picnic they play pirates indoors. The book is a great spark for imaginative play and includes kid-friendly, pirate-themed food for picnics.
What are your favourite rainy day activities?
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from the distributors. I was not required to write a review, nor was I paid for this post.