‘This is the grass, / all brown and dead, /That needed the rain / from the cloud overhead – / The big, black cloud, / all heavy with rain, That shadowed the ground / on Kapiti Plain.’ … An anthropologist discovered this tale many years ago and then Verna Aardema wrote this rhythmic version with its cumulative refrains bringing it closer to the English This is the house that Jack built rhyme and in so doing, extends children’s imaginative experience beyond the familiar to the Kenyan landscape.
We see and hear how a young herd boy named Ki-Pat, fearful for the fate of his hungry cows, with the aid of a feather dropped by an eagle that he fashions into an arrow and fires skywards to pierce the big black cloud and let loose the much needed rain at last. And for his trouble, Ki-Pat is richly rewarded with a wife and later, a baby.
Beatriz Vidal whose debut picture book this was, wonderfully evokes the rural African landscape with her cut-out style illustrations that look as great now as they did many years ago. This book has been a favourite of mine since my early days of teaching and I’m thrilled to see it back in print.