Rain Feet by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Rhonda Mitchell.
Orchard Books, Scholastic, 1994.
Board book, 10 pages.
A young boy dresses for and interacts with rain and puddles on his street in this simple and joyous spring board book.
When I was looking specifically for #ownvoices board books about black boys, this series kept coming up. I purchased this book because it was recommended as the first in the series, but taking a look at the author’s website, it appears that they can be read in any order (which is good, since this isn’t the first book).
This series is called the Joshua books, but in this particular book the protagonist isn’t named. In fact, much like Peter of The Snowy Day, he is alone exploring his wet urban world and wearing distinctive (in this case yellow) seasonal gear.
This book is quite short. It makes a great read-aloud for Baby and is very interactive with onomatopoeia, action words, and descriptions that activate multiple senses. That’s quite a feat for a simple board book with no more than five words on each of its ten pages!
The illustrations are lovely. Much thought was put into the color palette, with muted tones throughout so Joshua’s dark skin and bright yellow rain gear is the center of attention on most pages. I was so impressed with the way Mitchell expressed the changing nature of the rain and the water.
The front and back cover are part of the story, too. Although if you flatten the book out it looks like they are part of the same image, they also can be read separately as part of the narrative, with Joshua playing in the puddles on the porch before heading off on his rain adventure, and finally with him dropping his boots on the porch as he heads back inside. I was captivated by the cleverness of this cover with dual meanings.
Johnson also played an important role here. She’s better known for her novels, but in this book she was very sparing with the prose, choosing each word carefully and with impact. The slight narrative works perfectly with the pictures to carry a reader.
In online ordering, this book did not come off well. The cover looked washed out and uninteresting next to more vivid and intriguing books, which is why it took me so long to buy it (I purchased 24 board books before this one). Thank goodness I’m committed to purchasing and promoting #ownvoices books because it led me to give this series a try. This is not a flashy book, and the narrative is not complex, but it is a beautiful collaboration of two talents working at top form.
Either by reading the words alone, or by looking at the pictures alone, the book tells a story. But by adding the two together, we get something greater than the sum of its parts, which only the best board books can do.
Published in 1994, this is one of the older board books I’ve reviewed. However, it is clearly a classic that I highly recommend, particularly to early childhood education specialists looking for additions to their weather or seasonal collections.