Review: Outstanding in the Rain by Frank Viva

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Hardcover, 32 pages
Expected publication: April 14th 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Finished copy from Publisher

This book is such a nice chocolately brown it made me want to be like Oliver Jeffers’s The Incredible Book Eating Boy and take a bite out of it. I resisted. Barely. I am not familiar with Frank Viva’s previous works but this book seems like a good place to start and why not?

The picturebook plays with prose and composition in very interesting ways. The tagline states “A Whole Story With Holes” as every other page literally has a hole in it. These holes “make pictures” and words by borrowing letters and pictures which are drawn on the page that the space cut away reveals. To be honest, I felt that though the idea is innovative, the execution is somehow forced. “Ear” is revealed to be “Rear” in another page and the word choice feels very odd for a child especially since the book is written in first person.

Which is another thing that struck me about the picturebook. Picturebooks are usually written in third person and while first person narratives do occur, they are very uncommon. Children are rather literal beings (I have learned) and for them the use of “I” when clearly “I” (they) is not involved is a perplexing thing. I am generalizing but most of the children I interact with and read to would quibble with me using “I.”

The story itself is about a boy’s visit to Coney Island with his mom as a birthday treat. He rides many rides, eats ice cream (cries over spilled ice cream too), has birthday cake, and much more. The story is simple and the language is a bit awkward as I said previously.

What saved this book is the sheer energy of the art used to tell the story. The bold screaming colours, the polka dots, the cityscapes, the cartoon people, the use of texture and silhouette: all these things make the book alive and dynamic. Consider the cover. Look at the differences between the boy and his reflection in the puddle. It feels as though both are going to lift off the page and transcend mediums. I feel like Viva captured a small part of childhood with his art.

I shared this book with my niece and while she is only two years old and not yet able to completely follow a narrative, she loved the bright colours and the different details on each page. She liked it and I dare say that children older than her will too.