A hurricane can’t dampen the spirits of a little girl and her vibrant neighborhood in this children’s book for young readers.
Martine, curly-haired and brown-skinned, is an optimistic girl, the kind who skips to school and enjoys every feature of her mostly African-American neighborhood. And who wouldn’t love it. The streets are lined with brightly painted and appealing businesses owned by friendly proprietors. But Hurricane Willis wrecks the town, leaving people gloomy. The irrepressible Martine has an idea that fills her with new energy: She greets each good-weather day by name—for example, “Hey, Lisa girl!”; “Bonjour, Penelope”; or “Ello, Jill!” Why? “People on TV named the rainy days ‘Willis.’ Well, I want to name the sunny days too,” she explains to one storekeeper. He spreads the word, which inspires the neighborhood to start rebuilding. Martine helps, and soon the area is brighter and happier than ever: “People in her community found new joy and strength in each other and themselves.” Byrd (King Penguin, 2017) presents a young heroine who fairly bursts with energy, optimism, and exuberance, exploding into exclamation points when Martine regains her optimism: “She wiggled into her school clothes! She brushed her teeth in a flash!” Martine’s spirit is echoed in the neighborhood’s pre- and post-hurricane abundance: Mr. Pip’s Bakery is full of yummy treats that smell delicious; the students at Ms. Shirley’s Music Studio sometimes spill outside with their instruments, making people dance in the streets; and Mr. Johnny’s Grocery Store has “peaches so big you needed to hold them with two hands.” Ku’s (Silly Face Castle, 2017, etc.) full-page illustrations beautifully convey Martine’s emotions and the neighborhood’s moods as well as its diversity. Given the book’s preference for optimism, it downplays the real difficulties—financial, emotional, and logistical—of recovery after a major hurricane. Everyone, it seems, can easily afford to rebuild; no one lost a prized possession, a family member, or even a pet; no one has nightmares, depression, or lasting stress. Children who are less resilient post-disaster could find it hard to relate to Martine’s buoyancy.
A sunny tale for rainy days that encourages energy and hope.