cover image Professor Fergus Fahrenheit and His Wonderful Weather Machine

Professor Fergus Fahrenheit and His Wonderful Weather Machine

Candace Fleming, Candace Groth-Fleming. Simon & Schuster, $14 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-671-87047-8

Semi-psychedelic art stamps this effort with a dated look. Although the subject of Groth-Fleming's debut-an Old West rainmaker-might entrance audiences, her tale is overlong for the picture book set; and, while Weller's (Cowboys Night Before Christmas) busy, rainbow-hued watercolors might appeal to ``Yellow Submarine'' fans, their studied gracefulness lacks soul. As the folks of Dry Gulch, Tex., are weathering a drought, a black-clad character calling himself Professor Fergus Fahrenheit blows into town and offers to produce a storm. The citizens' skepticism turns to wonder when a downpour occurs, and Fahrenheit makes his sale-in fact, his customers readily pay to make the rain stop. Literally and figuratively, this con-man ``hero'' soaks the parched populace. It's up to the author's afterword to lend some value to the narrative: Fahrenheit is based on actual 19th- and 20th-century rainmakers, Groth-Fleming writes, ``even though we know that rainmaking is impossible.'' Ages 4-8. (Sept.)