Outstanding in the Rain

illus. by Frank Viva. 32p. Little, Brown. Apr. 2015. Tr $18.00. ISBN 9780316366274. LC 2013039335.
K-Gr 2—Verbal and graphic acrobatics abound in this visually playful yet not altogether successful picture book, "a whole story with holes." The spare narrative finds a boy and his mother celebrating his fourth birthday at Coney Island, a locale that provides plenty of illustrative opportunity for Viva to display his appealingly retro graphic style. A five-color palette of red-orange, teal, yellow, beige, and brown feels fresh, as do the strategically placed die-cut holes that create new words and images with every page turn. The graphic transformations are simple and pleasing, such as turning an umbrella into a birthday cake; however the same cannot be said of the verbal gymnastics, which weigh down the rhyming text with purpose. Utilizing a series of oronyms (a sequence of words that sound the same as a different sequence of words), "Ice cream" becomes "I scream," "her ear" becomes "her rear," and "fork handles" becomes "four candles," transformations that appear clever but ultimately feel forced and gimmicky.
VERDICT Despite some hiccups in the text, the lure of visual surprises and wordplay will spur readers forward through this handsomely designed book.

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