Rain and Books
[Photos and words - Nirmala Patil]
Dark clouds have rolled in. The wind howls outside rattling our eleventh floor windows. Rain has come, making the world wet with its falling. It’s my favourite time of the year, but also a time when all our outings feel rationed. We are indoors so much more. And our hearts pursue a slower, succulent everyday.
In the monsoon, we begin our days by lighting diyas around the house. That comforting, flickering glow is like a familiar hand - holding and walking us into the season. Charcoal bits sprinkled with Sambrani dust sit inside a dhuni. When burnt, the scented fumes saunter through the rooms. It is beautiful how when it rains, everything goes quieter. And the quietness coaxes us to pause and gaze at rain scribbling on windowpanes. Then, there are books that we read when it rains. Books and rain that go well with each other. Like best friends. My daughter is an early reader, so we’re surrounded by more books than ever. We spend hours between their pages, the stillness only broken by pages turning and the rain song. We read in the afternoons - on bed accompanied by our snoozing kittens. There are early evening sessions where we read while snacking on boiled sweet potatoes seasoned with salt and ghee. And on days when rain lets up, the sky clears, and the morning is bright with a mellow sun that feels almost warm on our skin, we lay in our balcony with books in our hands and birds swooping high above us. But reading at bedtime is our most beloved. Snuggled in bed together and wrapped in layers, with lights dimmed while the rain continues to fall outside. It is the sort of magic that exists in the mundane.
Here are some children’s books we are living inside these days; that celebrate the spirit of that very magic. Hope you feel invited to cuddle up with your children (or alone) and escape into the alluring pages of your own rain collection.
WHEN I WAS YOUNG IN THE MOUNTAINS by Cynthia Rylant and Diane Goode
Each page in this 1983 Caldecott Honor book begins with ‘when I was young in the mountains’ like a sweet incantation drawing you into a young girl’s childhood spent with her grandparents and little brother in the mountains. Here, words flow like feelings and illustrations, like a sonnet.
THE BARBER’S DILEMMA AND OTHER STORIES FROM MANMARU STREET by Koki Oguma
An adorable little book, full of bite-sized vignettes of everyday life in Manmaru Street, Tokyo. Seen from the perspective of artist Koki Oguma, who sketches various scenes from the life he observes around him, each story and the accompanying doodle is unique and abstract. Every time we read it, we end up buoyant and inspired.
WHAT A WONDERFUL WORD by Nicola Edwards and Luisa Uribe
A handpicked collection of untranslatable words from around the world - assembled with beautiful artwork, fascinating cultural anecdotes and interesting facts. It is a delight to leaf through its pages, meet a new word and adopt it into our daily conversation. Now, every time my daughter floods me with questions, I fondly chide her as ‘Pochemuchka’ - Russian, for a child who asks ‘why?’ all the time; a person who asks too many questions’. Another gem of a word we love is ‘Pelinti’ from the Buli language that means ’to move food that is too hot around the mouth as you wait for it to cool down’.
KATIE MORAG AND THE BIRTHDAYS by Mairi Hedderwick
One of my daughter’s favourite characters - Katie Morag, is a cheerful little girl who lives on the Scottish Island of Struay with her family, and favours her wellingtons over pointy shoes. Charming, humorous and realistic, the more you read off Katie Morag, the more you enjoy all her stories. And this one is a celebration book that interweaves a story through the months of the year as Katie Morag celebrates all the birthdays in her family in diverse ways befitting their personality. The family tree in the beginning and a blank calendar at the end waiting to be customised are additional gifts for young readers.
TALES OF TROTTER STREET by Shirley Hughes
We fell down a Shirley Hughes rabbit hole after reading another of her enduring classics - Dogger. Hughes’ is a world, once you enter, you’d by no means want to exit. With her distinctive style and timeless appeal, all four stories in this book are set in a quaint, multicultural neighbourhood where children and their loving families deal with small, real concerns. All while racing brand new bikes, getting ready for Christmas and marvelling at the arrival of a big concrete lorry. We love to pore over the pages absorbing the story through the artwork alone - which, as always, is warm, detailed, full of movement, lifelike and exquisite.
BERTOLT by Jacques Goldstyn
“Sometimes people don’t like what’s different.
To tell you the truth,
I have a feeling I’m not like other people.”
Bertolt is a sweet tale about a boy who loves solitude and being in nature. And that’s how he befriends a giant oak tree which he names - Bertolt. The wispy line art with its subdued palette throughout strengthens the tenderness of the story. As does the heartwarming end. It is a book that sings to the hearts of young introverts, loners, and/or nature lovers. And even to those who are not; because it’s beautiful to be whoever you are regardless of what others think.
SLOW DOWN by Rachel Williams and Freya Hartas
A lovely volume of fifty nature stories, that is both fascinating and educational. Filled with stunning two-page spreads showcasing slow processes and magical transformations in nature, Slow Down is an invitation for young minds to explore how - a cloud forms, an oyster makes a pearl, dew collects on a leaf, a spider weaves its web and so much more. Over a hundred pages long and rich with intricate, vibrant illustrations and texts that explain complex natural occurrences in a simple and succinct way, this is a book to slow down with and savor a little bit at a time.
LIZZY BENNET’S DIARY by Marcia Williams
A cute introduction to the Jane Austen universe, Lizzy Bennet’s Diary is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice in the form of a diary written by Elizabeth Bennet. Laced with humour and drama, and told in a fun accessible way primarily for younger readers, the book actually looks like a diary with lots of illustrations and unfolding letters that can be opened-up and enjoyed. The endpapers showing maps of Longbourn and Pemberley are an adorable bonus. We are halfway through this treat of a book that tickles my daughter’s fanciful heart.