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Review: Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld

By Tom Lichtenheld
Henry Holt (Macmillan)
ISBN: 9780805087765
Grades K-2
In Stores March 1, 2011

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:

Visit Tom Lichtenheld’s website.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

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 scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. We’ve read 2 books in the last week which have involved turning the book around for certain pages – an Octonauts book (Meomi) which actually involves turning the book through 4 90 degree turns over 4 double page spreads relating to the points of the compass, and Lieve Baeten’s The Curious Little Witch, where on the last page there’s a full map of the house the little witch has been exploring. We’ve all enjoyed the “interactivity” of turning the book, as well as the different space utilised by the illustrator. It’s not a technique I’ve seen much but here suddenly there is a little rush!

  2. Oh, this looks like the perfect book to make any cloudy day sunny. And adorable trailer. Thanks for bringing this to my attention!

  3. I love the ‘job hunting’ angle of the book trailer – sweet idea! Experience: sleeping. Maybe I should put that on my resume too? :) e

  4. Holy cow, that looks adorable!!

  5. Thank you for your thoughtful review of my book. It began in a workshop where I have kids create unlikely combinations of characters and settings. This story was originally about a little cloud who gets stuck on the roof of a house. My editor, Christy Ottaviano, wisely suggested that the protagonist, while interesting, needed a more universal problem. My thanks to Christy for helping me turn the nugget of an idea into a full-fledged story.

  6. This sounds like a great book! I really love that page spread–the colors are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing!

  7. wops im gone too much


  1. […] the word: “Cloudette.” Reviews I read before putting my hands on the book myself are 100 Scope Notes and LIBRARYPOINT. Before Cloudette was a cloud or even a book, she was just water. See this […]