In a time when counting blessings and wringing delight from the little things is more important—and more difficult—than ever, Adam Ciccio swoops in to save the day with this cheery children’s title about looking on the bright side.
The perfect springtime read for your little ones, A Beary Rainy Day tells the story of a bear named Wallow, who believes his day is ruined when a sudden rainstorm sweeps through the forest. With a little encouragement from a friend, Wallow finds the courage to brave the storm—and discovers that rainy days don’t have to be dreary.
After reading reviewer Danielle Ballantyne’s starred review in the March/April edition of Foreword Reviews, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to connect her with Adam in order to learn more about this timely title. We hope you enjoy their conversation!
In A Beary Rainy Day, Wallow learning to dance in the rain—literally—provides an opportunity for children to learn about the power of positive thinking, but the book also opens up more difficult conversations for parents and children. Anxiety, depression, and the importance of being open to new perspectives and friendships are all themes that factor into the deceptively simple narrative. What inspired this well-rounded picture book?
Most of my picture books are inspired by the work I do as a mental health counselor. Certain themes tend to become more prevalent than others. In relation to A Beary Rainy Day, I have noticed an increase in children who have negative perceptions about themselves or the world around them. Before their perspectives are cemented forever, I like to help them see things a little differently.
Wallow already has a negative affiliation with rainstorms. He automatically decided that he was going to avoid and isolate anytime rain came along. With children, it only takes one bad experience to solidify a negative perspective about something as a way of how life will always be. Wallow’s bad experience of getting caught in the rain has forever changed the way he thinks about rainstorms. BUT! He learns how to change his perspective with the help of his friend. After the NEW experience is over, you can see the transformation of Wallow’s attitude and disposition. He is happy and relaxed. No longer is that old negative experience of rainstorms the normal way of thinking.
A lot of children like to think in absolutes: Always or Never. “This always happens to me!” or “I never catch a break!” I like to try to challenge those absolutes. I want kids to dance in the gray areas of life. Wallow is seen literally dancing in the rain at the end of the story. Sometimes the weather isn’t going to be perfect. Sometimes plans aren’t going to always turn out the way we want them to. We must teach them how to adapt.
What I want children to learn from this story the most is that you can have a totally different outlook from a situation that looks similar to a previously negative experience. I want children to keep finding new perspectives with even the most mundane and repetitive events of life.
What was your experience like working with Emilie Timmermans, the illustrator? Did her illustrations influence your writing at all?
Emilie Timmermans is such a rare talent. I didn’t know who she was until she was assigned my manuscript. We became acquainted through emails and texts during the pandemic and I learned about her style when she submitted her storyboards to Clavis. It’s funny that when you write a manuscript you have an idea of what you think the story will look like in your mind, but then you are paired with such an amazing talent like Emilie who goes beyond your own imagination. The way this story was illustrated was phenomenal. It’s nothing like I’ve ever seen in any other picture book. Not only is this story told about Wallow, and his struggles with dealing with rainstorms, but Emilie decides to tell a few other side stories using creatures that you find in the woods living alongside Wallow. She came up with that totally on her own!
What is something about A Beary Rainy Day that you want audiences to notice or glean, but that may pass some readers by?
Aside from the sub-story of the squirrels stealing Wallow’s honey and waffles, I would like for my audience to know that Wallow is a VERY outdoorsy bear, symbolized by all of the recreational equipment that they might miss reading the story the first time. Some of it is even hidden throughout the entire book: skateboards, scooters, skis, stilts, balls, rackets, and pretty much anything else you would use to play outside is found somewhere within the illustrations of this story. I am passionate about children being in nature and having more peer-to-peer interactions outside instead of isolating inside with technology as their only companion.
Another fun visual nugget is in some frames you see some of the animals getting a little too cozy in the pillows in Wallow’s cave. Each time you read the story, you pick up on a new lesson or visual aesthetic. I like to think of it as watching a good movie over and over and each time you watch it you find something new to enjoy.
A Beary Rainy Day** plays with contrasting colors, with Wallow’s shades of blue placed in juxtaposition to the warmth of his surroundings—until he dons his yellow raincoat and joins in the fun. Was that visual representation of the change in Wallow’s attitude something you and Emilie worked on collaboratively? How did that reflection of the story come about?**
Emilie really took charge of the illustrations and how they were going to look throughout this story. When I saw the final drafts, I was blown away at the colors and how they captured the mood of the story as it progressed. What I really enjoy about Emilie’s illustrations is the very detailed aesthetic, but it’s also visually gentle and not too busy. Children can connect with the illustrations so quickly but also get lost in the enjoyment of the contrasts and side stories she tells purely through her work.
Finally, do you have any other projects in the works at the moment that you can share a few words with us about?
Yes, I do! Macie’s Mirror and The Boy in the Orange Cape are already available, in addition to several upcoming projects that will be on shelves in 2021 and beyond. Climb a Giraffe is about children who enjoy testing the bounds of imagination. Anxious Andy follows a boy who struggles to manage his anxiety and social situations. In Maybe I’ll Be, the age-old question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” gets a different take: no need to pick now if you don’t know yet! There is plenty of time to discover your passions. Go Out and Play is a much-needed story regarding the encouragement of engaging in the world outside and, especially, outside of technology. As technology advances capture the emotional attention of children, we want to remind them that life experiences and human connection can’t be replaced. All four titles will be published by Clavis and are coming out this fall.