The Rain Wizard: The Amazing, Mysterious, True Life of Charles Mallory Hatfield

Larry Dane Brimner. Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek, $16.95 (120p) ISBN 978-1-59078-990-2
Brimner (Strike! The Farmworkers' Fight for Their Rights) brings to light the story of enigmatic, entrepreneurial rainmaker Charles Hatfield. Claiming to be able to enhance rainfall amounts with his secretive chemical mixing and evaporative techniques, the bookish Hatfield contracted with drought-plagued San Diego in 1915 to fill a reservoir in exchange for a big paycheck. Chapters alternate between Hatfield's rain-coaxing work at the reservoir and his life story, including one chapter on the history of pluviculture, or rainmaking. Large, color-tinted archival photos create visual interest, and ample white space keeps the fact-heavy narrative from overwhelming. When heavy storms in the winter of 1916 filled the reservoir (and damaged the city with floods), "Hatfield had fulfilled his agreement... Or had he?" Readers who study this well-researched tale hoping to discover if Hatfield did indeed contribute to the floods bearing his name may be disappointed. Whether Hatfield's methods were legitimate, coincidence, or a little of both is left to conjecture. However, the concluding author's note mentions two later scientists who indisputably used chemicals to seed clouds and cause rain. Ages 9–12. Agent: Karen Grencik, Red Fox Literary. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/03/2015
Release date: 09/01/2015
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