This is such a beautiful book. Wonderful illustrations which encourage the reader to linger combine with a rich text to create something that will comfort and reassure. Highly recommended for children of all ages and quite probably adults too.
Felix is an unhappy boy. He carries a large black suitcase around with him everywhere. Although he does not really understand what is in the suitcase it contains the grief he felt following the death of his grandmother, the hurt felt when friends are unkind and the worry felt when his father told him off. All these feelings are locked away in the case. Until one day a little boy opens the suitcase while Felix sleeps and releases the sorrow, fears and troubles that have been hidden inside. Felix is uplifted and, full of joy, he rejoins the world around him and discovers that he is welcomed.
Sometimes pictures convey emotion in a way that touches the reader more than words are able to. Dunja Jogan’s beautiful illustrations are full of feeling and understanding, encouraging the reader to empathise with Felix and, perhaps, to identify their own worries and emotions too. As in all the best picture books much of the story is depicted in the illustrations and as I read this book for the first time I found myself lingering and ‘reading’ the pictures too.
When we first meet Felix he is slumped next to the large black suitcase. His dejection is matched by the gloomy background in sombre colours, the branches of one of the trees sweeping down mirroring Felix’s stance. As the story progresses the suitcase grows larger as the weight of Felix’s troubles becomes heavier for him to bear. The reader notices too that there is light and colour on the pages but not around the figure of Felix. There is a happy world out there but it is just out of the reach of Felix.
When the small boy opens the suitcase and all the unhappiness is released Felix must weather the intense storm of feelings that swamp him and the tears that flow. Calm again he returns to a world of colour and joy that he can be part of and finds that he is welcomed and embraced by others. The dark swirling clouds, weeping faces and clenched fists of the storm are replaced by vibrant colours, smiles and happy scenes. Felix has discarded his black clothes, and lifts his face up to the beautiful world around him. The joyous cover of the book shows Felix after the storm has passed and invites the reader to follow his journey to an optimistic and hopeful ending.
The translated text by Olivia Hellewell is rich and almost lyrical and this would be lovely to read aloud. The vocabulary working so well with the pictures; during the storm Felix ‘felt a rumble in his head’ and “tears ran down his cheeks like the rain’. Happy again he feels ‘like a fish in water’ rather than feeling like he does not belong.
This is a wonderful book to prompt discussion with children about emotions and how to handle feelings of sadness, depression or anxiety. It could also be a useful and comforting read for children experiencing bereavement. The story ends with Felix being gently embraced by those around him. I think this is perfect. Felix is being treated with care, he will not be overwhelmed by others as he rejoins the world he had cut himself off from. This will, I think, reassure children that should they be brave enough to communicate their worries and not hide them away they too will be treated with gentleness and care.
Thank you very much to the publishers, Tiny Owl Publishing, for providing my review copy, I will treasure it.
Felix After the Rain is published on 20th February and this lovely video trailer provides a taste of what to expect: