A picture book journey
People are generally surprised when I tell them that ‘Singing in the Rain’ was written in 1929! Any song that's been around that long is special. It means people connect to it. The song was a hit long before the film was ever made, in fact, the film was used as a vehicle to make the song a hit all over again! But I guess the reason why we love the song so much is that iconic dance scene by Gene Kelly.
A hit song that already has strong visual associations is possibly dangerous ground for a picture book project. When I told friends which song I was doing next I was surprised by their response,"Oh brilliant, I love that song, and will you be drawing Gene Kelly dancing in the rain?" A short, sharp“NO!” was my reply. Although in truth, there is a nod to Kelly right at the start of the book, because I want people to make the connection, I very much hope that parents and teachers will share that classic dance scene and the wonders and skill of Kelly with the little ones in their life.
But what else is this book about? Well actually, it's about life. It's about how rain is a powerful life source. Without rain we die. It's about how rain connects us all- moisture created in the rainforest falls in our cities. In the book this is all seen through the eyes of a child. It's children who tend to notice the cracks in the pavement; when did you last stop and really look into a puddle? I’m guessing you can't remember because as adults we just don't have the time! And actually rain is a huge inconvenience. If I announce that it's raining I doubt that many of you would jump up with sheer delight, you're more likely to groan and check the travel news. Rain means delays. But to a child, rain means dressing up in bright, funny clothing. Rain means wellies. Rain means puddles. Puddles mean splashing! And splashing is fun. So now you're aged four again, you're in your rainy day gear, you've got your wellies on and you've just been handed an umbrella. It's a bit windy, perfect, because you feel like flying. 1,2,3 and you're off. So now you're flying high above the city heading for where? The rainforest of course!
And as you drop through the clouds you feel the warm damp air and suddenly your head is filled with the sound of amazing tropical birds. And having grown up in the city, you've never seen anywhere so green and lush. You can hear a roar, but it's not the roar of tiger, it's continuous and powerful and you can't help but be drawn towards it. Now the noise is deafening... and what’s the source of the noise? A wonderful, powerful waterfall. It's time to head back now, time to leave the rainforest behind, time to return to the other side of the rainbow, back to the city, back to reality, back down to earth.
At first glance, what might appear to be ‘just the words from a song’ can in fact, as I’ve come to discover, be a terrific springboard for some spectacular visual story-telling.
Have a great day
‘Singing in the Rain’ is out now in paperback and has recently been nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal.
House of Hopgood has a range of giclée prints for sale featuring artwork from the book, click here to see the prints.