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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rain School, written and illustrated by James Rumford. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Thomas Allen & Son, 2011. $21.50 ages 4 and up

"In the country of Chad, it is the first day of school. The dry dirt road is filling up with children.
Big brothers and big sisters are leading the way."

Those big brothers and sisters have experience with the start of a new year in their home country. It is sure to surprise the newcomers. Together they head off down the road toward school, the little ones filled with questions that the older ones are not willing to answer. When they arrive there is a schoolyard but no school. There is no classroom and there are no desks. The teacher is unconcerned.

It seems that the first lesson is in building. They learn to make mud bricks, to dry them and then use them to create their own schoolroom and their desks. Once completed the children are ready to begin their other lessons in earnest. It is a satisfying and successful year for each one of them:

"The last day has come. The students' minds are fat with knowledge.
Their notebooks are rumpled from learning."

Home they go, just as the big rains begin. Can you guess what the rains do? When summer is over they will return to school, the little ones being the big ones now. And, once again, they will build their school so that they may all learn.

The illustrations are colorful, uplifting, and filled with James Rumford's love for Chad and its people. He lived there as a teacher and a Peace Corps volunteer. He clearly shows us, through his well chosen words and vibrant artwork, the importance of schooling in a country where few children have the opportunity to attend.

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