Viva, Frank. Outstanding in the Rain. A Whole Story with Holes. Book Review.

Click here to buy Outstanding in the Rain

Frank Viva is well known for illustrating The Boston Globe, The New Your Times, Time, and Esquire. His wonky illustrations translate well into children’s picture books. His first picture book was listed as one of The New York Times Ten Best Illustrated Books of 2011. So, I did have high hopes when I received this free hardcover copy of Outstanding in the Rain.

The inside cover is a double-page spread of a fair ground. The title page shows a mother watching her son receive an ice cream from a vendor. On the next double spread, the cutouts begin. “‘Ice cream,’ I say, my birthday surprise!” reads the text. There is a hole cut below the word ice showing the word cream printed on the next page. When the reader turns the page, the hole flips to the other side and becomes part of the little boy’s face. He has dropped his ice cream and now screams with tears in his eyes. Behind the hole, the roof from the subway train is transformed into his teeth. This is a great beginning, grabbing the attention of a small child.

The story continues with mom and child going down a long slide. The text reads, “I shout in her ear this is one crazy ride! But that was her rear I just about cried.” The illustration does not depict the child talking into her “rear” very clearly. The text continues on like this, sometimes crisp and engaging, other times stumbling. But the holes are disappointing, none as clever as the first.

If this is a child’s first “hole” book, he or she will be enthralled with the technique. I have seen this done several times before, sometimes with great ingenuity. Pam Adams comes to mind. This is an okay book, but I would not call it “outstanding.”


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages