When the Rain Comes Reviews


Kirkus Reviews ★ Starred Review

“Although set in faraway Sri Lanka, Fullerton’s rhythmic tale holds a universal message: that even the smallest and youngest among us can summon up the courage to face, and overcome, the most gargantuan challenges….Fullerton’s free verse dances across the page, urging readers forward through the narrative….And LaFave’s mood-appropriate colors, which range from the joyful sorbet hues of Malini’s village to the brooding blues and grays of the monsoon, complete the package. A beautiful introduction to life and culture on a little-known island nation—and a delightful read whether for the first or the 100th time.”

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The Hornbook

“A perilous flash flood threatens a young Sri Lankan girl’s life and her village’s livelihood in this compelling picture book. Fullerton’s spare and lyrical text opens with Malini waking up, excited to learn how to plant rice seedlings and contribute to her community’s well-being….Endnotes explain the realities of child labor, poverty, and a dependence on rice as a staple crop in Sri Lanka, and the book as a whole offers a powerful portrait of a child’s bravery and perseverance.”
—Megan Dowd Lambert

Read the full review in the May 2017 issue of The Hornbook

Publishers Weekly

“Fullerton’s (In a Cloud of Dust) tale starts out as a thoughtful account of a child’s daily life in Sri Lanka: ‘[Malini] watches the load of rice seedlings swish back and forth on the cart as it bumps over the road toward her. Today she will learn to plant those seedlings…. But what if she does it wrong?’ The story takes a dramatic turn as a sudden squall floods the road and cuts Malini and the oxcart off from the adults. LaFave’s (Ben Says Goodbye) spreads, too, switch from quiet landscapes to urgent action, dashing lines tracing sheets of rain. Malini must lead the ox and cart into the barn to get the rice seedlings under cover. She overcomes paralyzing fear and tugs ox and cart inside, but her troubles aren’t over: the ox is agitated.

Bold lines emphasize the animal’s intimidating bulk, but Malina screws up her courage: ‘She leans close to him, stroking whispering calming. They wait slowly, breathing together.’ It’s a gratifying portrait of a child discovering her own strength: Malini, so nervous about learning to plant rice, is capable of far greater feats. Ages 4–8.”

Find this review on page 56 of the November 14, 2016 issue. Click here to learn more about Publishers Weekly.


“An oxcart arrives in Malini’s small Sri Lanka village, loaded with rice seedlings, enough to sustain her community for a year….but a sudden storm floods the road, threatening Malini, the ox, and the precious cargo. The storm’s violence is conveyed by onomatopoeic language…Words that may be unfamiliar to American readers, such as bullock driver and spurfowls, further provide a sense of the setting. Large-scale illustrations highlight the sudden change from sunshine to rain, with first vertical and then diagonal streaks through the colors demonstrating the rain’s ferocity. Malini’s anxiety about helping with the planting and the sense of accomplishment she feels in saving the rice come through clearly in her facial expressions. An author’s note includes helpful background about Sri Lanka and family life there.”
—Lucinda Whitehurst

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School Library Journal “Reading Around The World | Picture Books”

“…Filled with ear-pleasing rhythms and onomatopoeia, Alma Fullerton’s vivacious free verse paints Malini’s character with deft strokes, and stirringly describes the action. Kim La Fave’s color-splashed illustrations set the scene and create a strong sense of motion, as the ox looms large above the girl, the monsoon unleashes, or Maili returns to the arms of her worried family. When the Rain Comes provides a vivid glimpse at life on an island country in Asia, as well as a satisfying look at a child who discovers the inner fortitude needed to overcome difficult circumstances.”

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Foreword Reviews

“The dramatic sights and sounds of a Sri Lankan monsoon surround Malini and her formidable ox as they struggle to higher ground, in Alma Fullerton’s When The Rain Comes. A fascinating slice of Southeast Asian life…Creative lines and saturated coloring from Kim La Fave’s paints and pencils capture the exotic riot and relentless rains of Malini’s village.”

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ILA Literacy Daily, “Cultural Diversity in Children’s and Young Adult Literature”

“Rendered in pencil and watercolor, the illustrations depict the drama and danger of the wind, driving rain, and Malini’s effort to protect the rice seedlings and soothe the ox.”

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Resource Links

“This moving story of courage from award-winning author Alma Fullerton is told in lyrical free-verse and the sounds of the impending storm and Malini’s narrow escape with the rice cart come alive through onomatopoeic description. Kim La Fave’s dream-like illustrations imbue Sri Lankan life with a sense of magic, bringing Malini’s seemingly impossible heroic task within the realm of possibility. An explanation of the harsh realities faced by many Sri Lankan citizens at the story’s end highlights that life in Sri Lanka is often far from magical.

When the Rain Comes could serve as a useful point of comparison in many social studies classes, prompting students to weigh Malini’s responsibilities to herself, her family, and her village against their own. An inspiring story beautifully told, When the Rain Comes would be an enriching addition to most school library collections.”
Natalie Colaiacovo

Read the review on page 4 of the December 2016 issue of Resource Links

CM Magazine

“…With When the Rain Comes, Fullerton introduces children to a culture different from their own in a way that is engaging and full of relatable emotions. Malini is Sri Lankan, and, although her experience is in many ways very different from that of a Canadian child, some feelings and encounters transcend borders. Here, readers witness a child explore her own capacity for bravery when faced with a challenge. Fear, uncertainty, loyalty, and pride are all things to which children everywhere can relate. The rising intensity of the story creates a connection to the character as readers strive and hope alongside her that she reaches the barn and calms the beast. Guided conversation after the book would be rich, delving deeper into the child’s personal experience with challenges and successes….

The true highlight of When the Rain Comes, however, is the artwork – big, luscious illustrations that own each page. LaFave demonstrates a mastery of colour, choosing a rich palate of purples and blues to depict the storm and creating depth with interesting colour blocking. From the brightly coloured spurfowl taking flight to the violent rain feverishly falling down, the images are unique and beautiful.

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—Amber Allen

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Canadian Children’s BookNews

“Alma Fullerton tells to tale in free verse. She successfully conjures up the sights and especially the sounds of a day in Sri Lanka—the song of the bullock-cart driver, the clop of the ox, the pounding of rain and the cracking of thunder. Kim La Fave’s illustrations magically transform a bedsheet into a flock of birds. He convincingly whips up the wind and slashes rain across the page to convey the frightening immediacy of a flash flood.

Young readers will identify with Malini’s trepidation in facing her new task, and they will cheer for her as she overcomes her own fear to save the day. When the Rain Comes is an engaging story in its own right but could also be used in a classroom setting to spark interest in Sri Lanka, its people, culture, geography, and climate.”
—Ildiko Sumegi

Read the full review in the Spring 2017 issue of Canadian Children’s BookNews

Brigham Young University, Children’s Book & Media Reviews

“Rating: Excellent…

Told in free verse from Malini’s point of view, this tale reveals the coming-of-age of a young Sri Lankan girl. A note at the back of the book explains more about life in Sri Lanka, the importance of rice as a staple food, and the two monsoon seasons which affect the area. Readers unfamiliar with this small country would likely benefit from reading the note first to provide context for the story. Poignantly written, When The Rain Comes provides insight into the diversity of life through Malini’s weighty struggle to ensure prosperity for her community in the coming year.”

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Worlds of Words

“What a beautiful book about such a terrible phenomenon! The reality, however, is that flooding happens across the world and has the potential for great destruction. The young protagonist in this picturebook has some real spunk and AGENCY. I think this is a wonderful book to share with young people, showing Malini’s responsibility but also the danger of flooding.”

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“…Alma Fullerton’s rhythmic lines and sound scape of life and weather…carr[y] the story, along with Kim La Fave’s stirring illustrations. From the brightly-coloured warmth of Malini’s home life to the tumultuous gloominess of the storm of flashing water, wind and sound, Kim La Fave contrasts the two realities, echoing Alma Fullerton’s cheerful and fearful situations….When the Rain Comes is a resoundingly effective addition to our diverse young CanLit collections…”
—Helen Kubiw

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“Readers will relate to Malini’s emotions, and feel great relief when her bravery ensures safety and success. Kids will happily accept an invitation to share their own stories of being afraid, and of acts of bravery.

Kim LaFave masterfully captures every nuance of the story through use of color and motion. They fully support the mood created by Ms. Fullerton’s telling free verse text. An author’s note places the story in Sri Lanka and provides plenty of interesting information about the island nation and the people who live there. Knowing more about the children of the world, their culture and the lives they live is cause for celebration.”

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Youth Services Book Reviews

Rating: (1-5, 5 is an excellent or starred review)  5

…What did you like about the book? This is a story of a young girl who lives in Sri Lanka….The blustery wind and the driving wind, along with the cries of Malini’s family urging her to leave the ox and come to safety show the drama of the choice Malini must make. I especially liked at the end of the book when the author explained just how important rice was to the poor people of Sri Lanka and it put Malini’s actions into a context.

Anything you didn’t like about it? I liked everything about this book.

To whom would you recommend this book? This is a great book to have in a library that fosters multi-culturalism. The story is engaging and children will learn about the culture of Sri Lanka through this book….

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes”
—Sandra Pacheco, ESL teacher, Washington, D.C.

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“The free verse text provides a suspenseful slice of South Asian life. Paint and pencil impressionistic illustrations depict the rain’s ferocity. Back matter gives additional information about Sri Lanka, its geography, and the importance of rice to the culture.”

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Midwest Book Review

When the Rain Comes features lovely color drawings by Kim La Fave, is set in a Sri Lankan community…Free verse captures the sounds, sights, and experiences of Malini’s first job.”

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Library of Clean Reads

“I love books that expose children to another culture, especially when it is in the form of an exciting story with a heroine character. When the Rain Comes is such a book, set in Sri Lanka in a small agricultural village where rice is the main income and food source….

My son and I really liked this story. Malini’s excitement and later her terror and fear are very palpable without being too scary for young children who read the book. The story highlights that even young children are courageous and their actions can make a huge difference in their family. The illustrations beautifully depict the colorful village and later the strength and fierceness of the storm. Through color and sketches, the illustrator captured the culture of the Sri Lankan people and the monsoon season. My son and I loved these unique illustrations.

This is a beautiful book with an exciting plot and a heroine any little child can look up to. It’s a great way to introduce one of the many Asian cultures to our children so as to build in them respect and admiration for other nationalities and ways of life. I don’t think my son has ever seen an ox before. Not one up close as Malini was with the ox she had to move to higher ground. This opened up a conversation about ox and how prevalent they are in some countries for agriculture. So although fiction, this book can be used as an educational tool as well. An excellent addition to any home and school library.”

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Orange Marmalade

“Malini is a little girl who lives in Sri Lanka….This year, Malini is learning to help in the rice fields….Unusual setting, striking illustrations, and an additional note telling more about Sri Lanka. Ages 3 and up.”

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Musings of a YA Reader

“…I liked When the Rain Comes even more. The illustrations and text in this book work really well together to highlight Malini’s feelings and show the importance of rice to her village and the dangers of a monsoon. The back of the book tells a little bit more about Sri Lanka and how reliant the country’s population is on rice.”

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Book Time

“What a beautiful book. The illustrations are different, both from anything else I have seen to within its pages. Sometimes it’s fast and swirling, other times Malini and the other characters in the book are smooth and more lifelike. It’s a cool effect. The story was also pretty amazing. My heart started racing and I could feel Malini, and the ox’s, anxiety rise and settle down. A beautiful book.”
—Lisa Day

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Hit or Miss Books

“The moods of Sri Lanka’s rainy season come alive as Kim La Fave, illustrator of the award-winning Shin Chi’s Canoe, uses a fresh style that is both contemporary and impressionistic to depict the courage of one little girl facing the power of a flash flood….

The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and, surprisingly, lyrical. The writing is, too, but even without words, this book would still be fairly easy to understand as well as moving.”

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