I recently received a gorgeous copy of Outstanding In the Rain by Frank Viva, as I was one of the lucky prize winners of Tundra’s Reading Club blog contest. When the package arrived I quietly tore open the shipping packaging, excited to dive in before it disappeared... clutched within the little hands of one of my kiddos. I managed to sneak in a quick read before my youngest noticed it in my studio and "borrowed" it for a few days. :) *yes! I love that she is so excited about books*
I managed to borrow it back to read it again( a few times) and write my review.
First off, let me just say I am a bit of a picture book design nerd, so before I even get to the actual story, I have to talk about the design. I really love the large trim size, the height of the portrait orientation nicely compliments the action inside. And seriously, how eye-catching is this cover? We all remember catching raindrops on our tongue- looove it. The satin-y matte dust-jacket helps to accent the fun, retro vibe of the stylized illustrations and limited colour palette of both the cover illustration and interior artwork. I know I have probably said this a ton lately but... I am so loving the trend of decorative/illustrated end papers. I love how it enables the illustrator to stretch out the story and add their visual contribution... even before the story starts!
(So... you can imagine, how thrilled I was when Cheryl Chen, my editor at Fitzhenry & Whiteside, gave me the thumbs up to create illustrated end papers for Gerbil, Uncurled( written by Alison Hughes) due out this Spring. I can't wait for you to see them!)
Anyway, back to this book!
front end paper spread
back end paper
The decorative end-papers set the stage; the front end-paper depicts bustling Coney Island’s beachfront board-walk in daylight then, to wrap up the story just so, the back end-paper ends depict the same setting but in two-tone night-time, moon/street-light perfection with the last few patrons(whom have braved the rain) are illustrated in little hits of colour.
Even the hand-lettered font of the title(see top image of the cover) is exciting and visually appealing. It sets the tone of the book wonderfully, introducing the fun word play of oronyms and mischievously hinting at the soon -to-be discovered die-cuts, with the tag line at the bottom of the cover -“A whole story with holes”.
The story begins with a young child and his mother arriving at Coney Island by train. Here they spend their special day together going on rides, eating treats and exploring. Along the way, things don’t go quite as planned and they encounter a few unexpected surprises. Viva does a wonderful job of depicting the enjoyable ups and unexpected downs of childhood. Oronyms- phrases that sound the same but have different meaning, are used creatively throughout the book. Each page is skillfully designed to place these oronyms within a die-cut shape on the right-hand page which, upon turning the page, is now on the left-hand page, becoming an integrated surprise element within the illustration. The cut-outs vary in size and shape, to compliment the text and their placement works to advance the story with successful visual appeal. Maybe this would be easier to describe with a visual?
Here is an example from the book:
“ ‘Ice cream’, I say, my birthday surprise, he exclaims.” The word “cream” is placed within an oval shaped die-cut under “ice” which after the page turn becomes “ scream” when the boy sadly drops his treat. “ ’Oh no!’ I scream, with tears in my eyes”. The left-hand page now contains the oval die-cut, the shape of the boy’s mouth (showing his teeth). The teeth peek through from the previous page which was the front detailing of the D train entering Coney Island station.
At times, due the restriction of using oronyms on each page, the rhyming text feels slightly forced, but all-around I think Viva succeeds in creating a delightful story unified by superb design. With features such as the fun die-cut elements, and retro-flavoured, colour-blocked illustrations all combined with playful oronyms, within kid-centric text, this book is sure to elicit giggles and high-fives from kids and adults alike.
Sending out a big "Thank-you, Tundra" for having these fun Tundra Reading Club contests on your blog. It is such a great way to promote your new titles, and interact with book-loving folks. And...who doesn't love the chance to win free books for that TBR pile?