The Reading Matrix
Vol. 2, No.3, September 2002
The Rainmaker's Dog: International Folktales to
Build Communicative Skills.
Cynthia Dresser (1998)
Cambridge University Press
Reviewed by Maggie Slowik
University of Notre Dame
The Rainmaker's Dog is a book designed for
students and teachers of English internationally. It is
specifically designed to fit the needs of high beginning
to intermediate learners, to both young adult and adult
students. This text uses short folk tales from Africa, Haiti,
Australia, and Asia within a whole-language framework to
help students improve their reading, writing, listening
and speaking skills. The Rainmaker's Dog further builds
crucial communication skills by using these international
folk tales. The intended goal for teachers is to offer a
variety of readings and activities that will lead to freedom
from old-fashioned teaching methods and highly encourage
a tolerant, learner-centered classroom environment that
enhances effective learning and risk taking. No ancillary
materials accompany The Rainmaker's Dog. Both paperback
and hard cover versions are available as well as the instructor's
manual. Only the paperback version is reviewed here.
From the outset, The Rainmaker's Dog stands
out as a well planned and visually interesting text. Ranging
from about 200 to about 2,000 words, the selections are
accompanied by pre-reading and post-reading activities.
The literature-based reader-response approach and the wide
range of group discussions and cooperative learning activities
in each chapter are intended to improve communication skills.
The page layouts are fairly user- friendly and show originality.
The text is well-fed with pictures, maps, and storyboards,
all of which are creative hand drawings and not prints.
The Rainmaker's Dog is divided into three
parts. Part I: Planning the Journey explains what is implied
already by the title: book is a journey in a way that the
students learns about several cultures and in another way
that they are guided individually on their path to developing
English communicative skills.
Part II: The Journey offers six interesting
chapters featuring folktales from various geographical regions
of the world. Chapters 1 (Central Africa), 2 (West Africa),
and 3 (East and Southern Africa) represent different areas
of the continent and their ancient cultures. Chapter 4 (Haiti)
tells stories about the flow of African slaves. Chapter
5 (Aboriginal Australia) is about the influence that modern
life had the continent's roots. Chapter 6 (Asia) reflects
different cultures that yet have many characteristics in
Each chapter in Part II follows the same
pattern. A brief introduction lays out cultural, geographical,
and historical information, successfully setting the context
for the chapters.
The section on maps and map exercises provide
students with the geographical context so they can learn
how countries are related to one another. The maps are not
authentic prints but rather detailed drawing, which might
encourage students to search for more information on their
Each tale or story is preceded by pre-reading
exercises (Before you Read, to help learners to focus on
the ideas in the story before they actually start reading
the text. At this point, the students get an idea of the
language they will need in order to talk about the story.
Another advantage of this section is that it prepares the
students not only for the core text but automatically for
the post-reading exercises.
Following each story are post-reading exercises,
which connect to the story in an engaging way. Since the
story types are so different from each other, so are the
types of exercises, which can be: small-group discussion,
character analysis, jigsaw exercises, information-gap exercises,
and classroom activities. The small-group discussions require
the use of real-language and aim at students to express
themselves on an independent and mature level. In the character
analysis exercise, students learn to express feelings and
beliefs. The jigsaw exercises are more challenging in a
way that they require the students to understand the information
they are given, to express it to another student, and finally
to initiate the finding a solution. The information-gap
activities require students to exchange information in order
to come up with a solution and the classroom activities
improve performance among the students.
Every chapter in The Rainmaker's Dog concludes
with a section entitled comprehensive exercises. The readers
are starting to connecting ideas and drawing parallels among
the many stories in that particular chapter. The advantage
of these exercises is the integration of information the
The last part of the book, Part III: Journey'
s End combines all the stories, characters and skills in
the book so that the readers can collect their ideas on
the journey they have just taken. In addition, it is meant
to make them realize how much knowledge they have gained
all the way to this journey's end. The Reference section
at the end of the book contains answer keys to some of the
In sum, The Rainmaker's Dog achieves its
goal of developing proficiency in the four language skills
not only in meaningful but also in very humorous contexts.
What is more, learners will not only master their English
skills for a setting different from the classroom but they
will, in addition, deepen their understanding and appreciation
of foreign cultures and develop their own values. The book
is very unique in a way that it ignores grammar sections
and instead deals with real-life topics and a better understanding
of the world. The Rainmaker's Dog is definitely worth the