When there’s thunder and lightning, people and wild creatures alike head for safe places to stay dry and ride out dangerous weather. Two beautiful and reassuring new picture books relate stories of characters who shelter together during summer thunderstorms.
Together We Grow is the debut picture book from Susan Vaught, neuropsychologist by day and author by night, who has something to say about inclusion in this tale of barn creatures facing a harsh nighttime storm. In spare, eloquent rhyming couplets—“Lightning gash! Windy lash!”—the book opens as fierce weather drives a frightened fox and its cubs to a barn full of animals. After the animals tell the fox to scram (“Go away! We’re full today!”), a small, unassuming duck heads outside to assist the fox family and convince the other animals to allow some space in the barn—and in their hearts.
Illustrator Kelly Murphy employs a color palette of deep, rich blues that juxtapose marvelously against the vivid oranges and yellows of the foxes, the duck and the warm light of the barn’s interior. Several spreads, including those toward the end of the book when the storm has passed, are lush and cinematic, and Murphy wields light and shadow to dramatic effect. The two-page spread in which the duck calls to the fox and its family to invite them inside is particularly striking; the duck stands in front of a block of yellow interior barn light, which accentuates the hope and promise embedded in an otherwise foreboding scene. Unusual perspectives and angles, many of them aerial, make for visually dynamic moments.
Vaught’s depiction of furry farm life leans toward anthropomorphism, avoiding the messy biology of the food chain as it delivers a poignant message about embracing those who are different and caring for neighbors during difficult circumstances: “Learn and show / together we grow.”
When the Storm Comes also unfolds in rhyming couplets, but author Linda Ashman adds a call-and-response structure: “Where do you go when the sky turns gray— / When the grasses bend and the treetops sway? / We gather here below the eaves. / We roost beneath some sturdy leaves.” Ashman’s use of the first-person collective “we” suggests that we’re all in this together. Like Vaught, Ashman considers how various creatures, including humans, respond to dangerous weather. Some of these creatures—a house cat, a pet dog—dwell indoors, while others, such as a hive of bees and a family of rabbits nestled in a hollow log, make their homes outside. Ashman’s narrative continues into the storm’s aftermath, depicting both cleanup efforts and a communal celebration of sunny skies.
Illustrator Taeeun Yoo sets When the Storm Comes in a coastal town; among the humans’ preparation efforts, boats must be latched and tied in this neck of the woods. The comforting curves of Yoo’s linework give way to harder lines of flashing lightning and driving rains as the tempest arrives. Though storms are scary, there’s a cozy feeling when all the humans, along with the pet dog, gather inside to play a game, share stories and “curl up tight.” Once the storm has passed, Yoo returns to her signature soft and warm illustrations in this satisfying story of community.
These two books offer children an empathetic look at what it’s like for animals who fear storms just like we humans do. Readers will be comforted to see communities come together to stay safe during wild weather.