Review: Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld
The concept of a small protagonist making a mark on the big world is a children’s lit mainstay. It makes sense – there are few situations children can better relate to than being surrounded by those that are older and bigger and wanting to do something conspicuous. Tom Lichtenheld’s charming Cloudette ably enters this territory, and will likely garner fans big and small. But mostly small.
As her name suggests, Cloudette is a cloud of the most diminutive proportions. Clearly, there are perks to being small, but Cloudette reaches a point where she wants to do important things, like make rivers flow and waterfalls fall. She tries to help the fire department, garden center, and car wash, but is turned away at every stop. When a storm drops Cloudette in an unfamiliar place, she finally finds where her modest services can make a difference – a small, dried-up pond.
While third-person narration guides the narrative, dialog intermittently appears in smaller font, sometimes adding comic relief and other times filling out the story.
For a book about a cloud, these illustrations are certainly sunny. Ink, pastel, colored pencil, and watercolor are used to create bright, clean artwork. There are some two page spreads here that absolutely stand out as among Lichtenheld’s best work. For example:
And when the story reaches its climax and our heroine finally lets the rain fall, the view shifts, requiring the reader to turn the book to the side (think Tops & Bottoms) to get the full effect – a nice touch.
It isn’t cloying, it isn’t didactic – it’s just a little book about self determination that works. In the end, Cloudette is perfectly pleasant, and that’s not a bad thing to be.
Review copy from publisher.
Watch the book trailer for Cloudette:
Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.
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About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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