Bethany is slower than other children her age. She walks with a limp because one leg is shorter than the other and she thinks slower. She doesn’t understand a lot of the things that people say to her, and she doesn’t read or write very well. Sometimes, people call Bethany “halfwit,” or the really bad name she hates.
Bethany only feels genuinely loved and accepted around her Daddy and her elderly neighbour, Mrs. Goldsborough. Even her mother and her older sister, Mira, get frustrated with Bethany, and ask her to stay outside when people come to visit. Then one day, strangers stop in for a drink of water, leaving behind something that will change Bethany’s life forever.
A companion to Valerie Sherrard’s award-winning novel, The Glory Wind (2011), Rain Shadow is a gentle tale told through the voice of a twelve-year-old girl who often understands things differently and feels them deeply. Although Sherrard’s rain shadow analogy is a bit obtuse for younger readers, the book has excellent potential for classroom discussions about polio, special-needs children and grief.
Bethany’s inability to understand idiomatic language, though frustrating to other characters, provides even more possibilities for teaching concepts of metaphor, sarcasm, and hyperbole. A brief glimpse of small-town Manitoba during the 1940s, Rain Shadow is a sweet, yet tragic, little gem of a story that could nicely supplement a lesson plan for upper elementary students.