Rain Before Rainbows

Rain Before Rainbows
Smriti Halls and David Litchfield
Walker Books

My first thought on seeing the amazing cover of this book was the first song that I learned to sign, the foundation stage favourite, Sing a Rainbow. As I turned the pages, I felt that both Smriti and David truly are singing a rainbow in this awesome book that was originally released as a free download during the summer in partnership with Save the Children’s #SaveWithStories campaign.

On the opening spread we’re in the company of a girl as she follows a fox through a rainstorm, ‘Rain before rainbows. Clouds before sun,’ we read as Smriti’s lyrical rhyming text takes the child to the departing day as she pauses, illuminating the fox with her lantern under a star strewn sky.
The walking continues and we read of mountains to climb, ‘Journeys to take.’ …

until it’s time to rest under the now star-filled sky and dream hopeful dreams.

Yes, there are likely to be dark days when worries beset us; days when storms rage both within and without,

but somewhere there’s light and footsteps to follow, friends who care, to guide us all through troubled times, out of the dark and into the light where new life will always come, little by little seed by seed, flower by flower,

bringing hope and cheer, and the promise of better things beyond that darkness, under that rainbow …

Both author and illustrator have clearly put heart and soul into this breath-taking book. Smriti’s reverie of resilience is honest and reassuringly uplifting, while David’s dazzlingly spreads are out-of-this-world gorgeous. Every single one is a place to pause, reflect, imbibe its beauty (even the dark ones), and only then to move on, empowered and full of hope.

I’m Sticking With You

I’m Sticking With You
Smriti Halls and Steve Small
Simon & Schuster

As Smriti’s ursine character tells it in her lively rhyming narrative, Bear and Squirrel are best buddies, pretty much inseparable. ‘Wherever you’re going, I’m going too./ Whatever you’re doing./ I’m sticking with you’ insists Bear.

However, debut artist Steve Small’s illustrations, paint a different picture: this friendship is problematic.

Well- intentioned Bear is huge, clumsy and oblivious to the effect his actions have on his bestie as he unknowingly breaks Squirrel’s teacup, sneezes the roof right off his house and nigh on flattens him as they share a taxi ride.

Then, as they sit squashed inside an igloo, Squirrel’s forbearance cracks causing him to speak out, ‘Erm … actually Bear … I think I need to be on my own. … It’s getting a bit crowded in here.’

The deflated Bear disappears reluctantly leaving his pal to enjoy the space. Physically things seem great

but pretty quickly Squirrel realises that his friend’s absence has created huge gap to fill in his heart and mind … ‘I MISS BEAR!’ comes the cry and out dashes the rodent imploring Bear to return.

Squirrel’s hugs and imploring win for as the small creature says, ‘When we’re unstuck, / we won’t fall apart. // How could we ever? / We’re joined at the heart. … and I LOVE YOU / A LOT!’

Steve Small’s illustrations, spare as they are, convey a great deal of feeling and a gentle humour that work well with Smriti’s story that rolls nicely off the tongue.

A lovely portrait of the ups and downs of friendship.

Elephant In My Kitchen!

Elephant In My Kitchen!
Smriti Halls and Ella Okstad
Egmont

‘There’s an elephant in my kitchen’ informs the child narrator of Smriti’s rhyming story but that’s not all. There’s been a veritable invasion of the house by wild animals and they’re doing such annoying things as bouncing on the bed and playing badminton;

but much worse – one has taken the liberty of having a dump when our narrator is absolutely bursting for a wee.

As for the food stores, they’re getting depleted by the second as polar bears, penguins, a wolf and a chimpanzee make short work of all the goodies they can lay their paws and beaks on; not to mention the din created when a chorus of frogs decides to strike up and one of their number flattens the boy’s favourite cuddly. Time to discover what exactly is the cause of all this mayhem and marauding.

Oh dear me! Turns out it’s the result of thoughtless and selfish behaviour on the part of we humans, doing things with no thought for the consequences of our actions upon the wildlife that shares our planet.

An urgent plan is crucial. We need to change our ways and everyone has a part to play otherwise who knows what might happen …

With lots of detail to explore and giggle over, Ella Okstad’s zany illustrations are a great complement to Smriti’s zippy cautionary tale. Humour is an important vehicle when it comes to vital messages: it certainly works here.

Welcome to Your World

Welcome to Your World
Smriti Halls and Jaime Kim
Walker Books

Strangely enough this gorgeous book arrived in the same week as my nephew’s wife had a new baby girl so it was particularly timely. I can already imagine her seven-year-old sister reading Smriti’s, lyrical, almost prayerful text to her and showing her the beautiful scenes of the natural world. That though will have to wait until the next time I see them.

‘Welcome, little baby, / round your mother curled. / Welcome, little baby. / Welcome to your world.’ begins the exhortation to the infant to use every sense to experience the delights of nature from morning to nightfall: the warm rays of the sun; the flora and fauna of the forests, the splashing ocean with its fish and turtles; the sound of the eagles as they soar and swoop; the wondrous sight of the Arctic light;

to feel the water from the rain and the waterfall as the elephants do. There are juicy berries waiting to be tasted (though not just yet and not without adult say so) as well as sweet-smelling blossoms and many other wonderful experiences.

When the sky darkens there are twinkly stars far out and closer, the moon to shine upon your lovely face.

The mother concludes by repeating ‘Welcome to your world’ continuing – ‘it loves you through and through. / Welcome to your world … // will you love it too?’

Just beautiful!