In Abi Cushman’s delicious moody first picture book, Soaked, rarely has a dreary day been so delightful.
Sometimes when you’re in a funk, you just need to stay that way for a while; so it is with Bear. Channeling his inner Eeyore, Bear declares his feelings on the book’s very first page: “Look at all this rain. Everything is dreary. Everything is drenched. And no one is happy.” Pelted by rain and holding an ice cream cone that’s been destroyed by the storm, it’s easy to understand where he’s coming from.
Amid a dismal gray and cloudy landscape, Bear’s downcast eyes perfectly convey his sour temper, which is nicely counterposed by plops of pink from his melted ice cream. Bear’s determination not to be cheered up by his patient companions—a sneaky badger, a watchful bunny and a big-spirited, fun-loving, Hula-Hooping moose—is impressive. Anyone who’s ever had a bad day will find Bear’s gloomy mood relatable, and only a reader with a heart of stone could resist the appeal of the dispositional tug-of-war between Bear and Moose.
Cushman propels her story forward with minimal text; her images do most of the work through a pleasing combination of spots and full-page spreads. In one, Moose stands on his head, apparently oblivious to the rain, as Bear sits on a log nearby, wallowing in his misery and letting out a “Blahhhhh. . . .” that spans the entire spread, highlighting Bear’s ennui. Pops of color contrast against the book’s muted palette and enliven the action, especially when it comes to Moose’s multicolored, glow-in-the-dark Hula Hoops.
There’s verbal fun, too, as when Bear, having been sufficiently restored to good spirits by his friends’ efforts, jumps in a puddle and gleefully exclaims, “It’s so splishy and sploshy! Silly and soggy!” Of course, even when the rain stops and the sun starts to shine again, brooding Bear gets the perfect last words: “Blah. Too sunny.”