Values: Joy, Empathy and Hope.
I’m not really sure why I haven’t written about Felix After The Rain yet, because it is one of my favourites and will be used year after year, I’m sure. It is a beautiful picturebook in which the illustrations and text perfectly combine to create a magical sense of journey. The fact it was published in 2020 was really symbolic of the turbulence, worry, grief and hope that we all felt.
At the start of the book, Felix is burdened by a big, black suitcase that he lugs around. In it, are his worries, grief and sorrow. It gets heavier by the day and, although Felix’s grandmother tells him that uphill struggles always lead to downhill slopes, he can’t seem to shake the suitcase off. Felix, all dressed in black, seems to embody the suitcase. The trees which surround him are bare and dark with heavy, visible roots. His cheeks suggest the physical effort that is involved in carrying around all his woes.
One day, Felix makes it to the top of a hill with his suitcase. Tired, he falls asleep under a tree. A curious little boy comes along and opens the suitcase. Felix, upon wakening, sees that his troubles have been released and with this, big, heavy tears flow down his cheeks. He is able to acknowledge all of the sadness that was in the suitcase. In the remaining pages of the book, we see Felix feeling much lighter: he runs, skips and jumps; he hugs people; and symbolically, the trees around him bloom and flower again. Such an uplifting story and a great way of visualising emotions for children.
The first Value you could use Felix After The Rain to explore is joy. Once Felix is able to recognise and accept some of his sad feelings, he is also able to release them and be free. Felix’s newfound joy is shown in so many ways in this book from his smile to his brighter clothes to the way nature flourishes and people hug him again. It would be a great story to use with children who are struggling with anxiety, depression, grief or worries. It would also be a good story to use as schools return from lockdown. The message about recognising and sharing worries and sadness is so important for mental health and the visual illustrations show the impact of this beautifully. I also love the way Felix’s joy brings joy to others and this is a wonderful question to ask children: how do you bring happiness to other people?
The second Value that you could use in conjunction with this book is empathy. We all experience a range of emotions in life and therefore asking children to relate to a time when they have felt down or felt like they are carrying a heavy burden might be something children can talk about. It may not be something they want to share openly with the whole class, but a private post-it note or small group chat might enable this opportunity for all. Felix’s sadness and joy can be inferred from the pictures clearly so asking children how they think he feels (before reading the book) from different pictures and how they know, can be a powerful exercise too.
Lastly, I would use this book to examine the Value of hope. It is a very hopeful book about the future and how periods of sadness clear and make way for happiness and sunnier times, even though it may not feel like it. As schools return at the moment, it could be a great Value to think more about: what hopes do you have for 2021? How could you achieve these?
If you want to get hold of a copy of this timeless book, you can grab one from many independent booksellers or from the Tiny Owl website, which is where I got mine (they have an activity pack here too!). They really need your support at the moment! You can also find audio recordings of the book online too, if needed. It is great to see books translated into English and this book, originally from Slovenia, is one to stay. Lots and lots of schools have used this book so there is loads of inspiration out there for how you could do the same, so spend a little time looking.
Explore more of these Values for other books on my blog by using the links below: