Whatever the Weather ...
The weather. It is a constant companion and a constant source of conversation. It is also a rich source of material for story-writing. Just two weeks ago I shared a storytime reading featuring the weather, I had to don my rainhat and coat for it for off we went into the storm! There are picture books featuring rainbows, puddles, fun in the rain, the sun in every weather. Readers of chapter books have the Rainbow fairies each of whom is linked to a type of weather, lovers of classic children’s books may remember Oscar Wilde’s The Storm Giant, older readers, I could go on (but I won’t).
If you will allow, maybe I will (go on). More specifically I want to tell you about some recent discoveries, books that have come my way all of which use weather as a plot device, it is weather that drives their stories, that makes them into the richly woven tapestries of story that they have become. The weather, to drive a plot, does not have to be extreme, if has to be notable enough or prevalent enough to bring the plot together, to provide a backdrop to the story, reasons for it to have prompted a turn of events. The weather is a vast and wonderful topic, it has elements of both dark and light, warm and cold, it provides an endless mix of possibilities and so it is with three books, a picture book, middle grade illustrated chapter book and teen book that I will introduce you to, plant the seed of the idea, of the weather in stories.
From Tom Tinn-Osbery, as both author and illustrator (DK) comes Lost in the Clouds. A delightful picture book demonstrating from the front cover in that not only does every cloud quite literally have a silver lining but also that it will offer a ray of sunshine, a ray of hope. This book exudes warmth. Yet it is a book not about the weather but about grief. Being lost in the clouds is a metaphor for the place that a lost loved one may have gone to. Billy’s mummy now lives in the clouds which means that eh still sees her, almost every day but what about when the sun shines? Well on those days she is still there – she, as the cloud, has moved to let the sun shine down. This lyrical, moving and gentle story is as much about grief, and coming to terms with it, as it is about appreciating the beauty and joy of nature and the world around us all. It is a book that uses weather as a plot device intelligently and gently.
Laura Ellen Anderson draws and in doing so has discovered that she loves to make the weather and all its elements in to characters. This led her in turn to create the first book in a brand new magical adventure series. Rainbow Grey (Farshore) is book that conquers the weather and the imagination of every reader. It is bright, brilliant, bursting with the most wonderful group of characters and it centres on Rainbow Grey who lives in the kingdom of Celestia in the Weatherlands, high up there in the sky. Home is cloud 9 and yes, it too has a silver lining. I have fallen in love with her cloud cat Nim and I wish I had her adventures (and that I had the power to change the weather at my fingertips – or her rainbow hair for that matter). This most magical of first adventures finds Rainbow Grey discovering her new powers, learning how to harness the power of the weather and of course SAVE THE WORLD from the ultimate storm.
For Geraldine McCaughrean the weather has taken a turn for the worse in her The Supreme Lie (Usborne). Here the weather is used a plot device for a darkly funny commentary on our own times. The world (maybe it is our world) has been paralysed by natural disaster – a flood like no other – and dangerous politics. The state is run by a tyrant. The tyrant, on being faced with an unprecedented level of flooding in the country, runs away leaving her maid to pick up the pieces. The corruption that has been taking place, the advent of the floods, combine to threaten lives, livelihoods and the fate of the county. Can people and nature work together to find a resolution is just one of the many questions McCaughrean poses in this multi-layered, richly imagined story. You may never see rain waters and floods in the same way again!
This snapshot look into three weather-inspired books that have come to my attention in recent weeks is just a that a snapshot of the power of story and the ability of weather to be used as a magnificent plot device to drive story. It has endless possibilities and I for one will be eagerly awaiting more stories that make me think about the natural world around me, seeing it in its many different lights (and darks) suns (and rains). I do hope though that we will all be seeing some dry sunny, summery weather very soon!
Contributed by Louise Ellis-Barrett