Author: Michael Catchpool
Illustrator: Alison Jay
Age Group: 2-6
Synopsis: A young boy has the knowledge and the wisdom to spin clouds into cloth but when the king demands his own cloud-spun clothes the kingdom suffer.
The Low Down:
This is another book that just jumped into our library bag. I don’t know how they keep doing that but when I get home and we’re sifting through our score I’m just surprised as can be. Pleasantly, usually. But definitely more than pleasantly with Cloud Spinner. The unique and quirky illustrations of Alison Jay seemed to call to me but after also reading the fabulous story by Michael Catchpool it was confirmed that we’d found a real gem.
The story begins with the Cloud Spinner, only ever referred to as boy. This boy has learned from his mother how to spin clouds into cloth. He catches the different colored clouds at different times of the day for a variation of colors. But he only has two items made from the decadent cloth: a small scarf for his head when it’s hot and another for round his neck when it’s cold. One day, the king rides through town and upon seeing the scarf demands not only one of his own but a new wardrobe of clothes for the queen and princess. Even though the boy warns him that this isn’t a wise course of action the king doesn’t listen (they never do). After making these clothes, the land falls into an intense drought. No clouds = no rain. But the king and queen can’t see the connection and are blinded by the love of their new clothes. The princess, however, has it all figured out and late at night scoops up all the cloud clothes and returns them to the boy. Together they are able to return the clouds to the sky and rain to the land. Although the king and queen wonder what has become of their new duds, they’re pleased to see the kingdom returned to rights.
Jay absolutely shines through the entirety of this story, employing a technique I’ve never seen before. Each page looks as though it’s be rendered on porcelain with a myriad of small cracks embroidering the surface. It really is the colors that Jay uses that really brings the pages to life. From a delicately colored evening sky to a heaven ablaze with pinks and purples, she seems to encase all of the vibrancy of these times onto the page. There are also small details hidden in the clouds or on the hills that continues to give character to each page. As for the characters, they need no help in that regard. The king, his horse, even the townsfolk and sheep all seem to have a twist of Fernando Botero with a heavy dose of quirky humor.
Bug loves cloud spotting and searching each page for a new sort of hidden gem and in The Cloud Spinner he’s well supplied. However, beyond the story and illustrations, I really liked that the Cloud Spinner was never referred to beyond “the boy” because it allows little boys reading it to imagine that they are the Cloud Spinner. It invites the reader to also be aware of the danger of allowing a focus on material possessions to blind us from the harm that consumption can have on the environment around us. With a warm story that introduces the affects of climate change and truly unique illustrations that can’t help but delight and amaze, The Cloud Spinner is a title we’ll be checking out again and again.
- Look for the faces that are worked into the hills. Their expressions change based on the emotion of the village.
I need more!
I’m not very familiar with any of Michael Catchpool’s other work but I am very excited to check out his 2008 release Grandpa’s Boat.
Alison Jay has a ton of titles to her name but her Twelve Days of Christmas looks absolutely divine. Find out more about her on Google or Amazon.
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