Cloudscape: Charlie's Story


A light read for preteens that brims with possibility but leaves too many things vague.

In Courtney’s debut middle-grade book, an ordinary boy visits a wonderful world where international refugees live among the clouds.

Young Charlie is looking forward to the upcoming baseball season but wishes that his father had a little more time in his busy schedule to help him practice. The only odd thing in his life is his clairvoyant Aunt Matilda, who enigmatically predicts that he’ll turn blue—a statement too strange for him to understand or take seriously. During a cross-country flight to his Roseport, New York, home from his aunt’s house in Portland, Oregon, Charlie’s plane undergoes strange turbulence and he finds himself sucked out into the open air, where he lands in the mysterious Cloudscape. There, people from all over the world live in different cloud regions, using whatever supplies they can scavenge from passing airplanes—the very practice that accidentally pulled Charlie in. He begins to change in fascinating ways as he acclimates to his new surroundings, taking on a scaly, clammy, and, as Aunt Matilda predicted, blue appearance like other residents. They introduce him to such wonders as cloud-flavored snow cones and baseball played with golf balls (and no grounders). But despite these marvels, he still plans to do what Cloudonians say is impossible: return to the ground below. Courtney’s lighthearted adventure offers rudimentary atmospheric science bolstered by fantastical sensory flourishes. But although the book excels at tactile descriptions (such as stickiness), it leaves the visuals of Cloudscape, such as the Cloudonians’ travels, origins, and living conditions, mostly to readers’ imaginations, a choice that undercuts the otherwise competent worldbuilding. A late discovery by Charlie opens this burgeoning series up to new possibilities in planned future volumes. The book also includes a reading-group guide, a few black-and-white photos of clouds and rainbows, and a handful of recommendations for further reading about clouds.

A light read for preteens that brims with possibility but leaves too many things vague.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9967059-1-2

Page Count: 142

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2016


The Buehners retell the old familiar tale with a jump-roping, rhyme-spouting Goldilocks. When their porridge proves to be too hot to eat, the bear family goes for a stroll. Meanwhile, Goldilocks comes knocking to find a jump-roping friend. This Goldilocks does not simply test out the chairs: “Big chair, middle chair, little chair, too, / Somebody’s here to bounce on you!” And so continues the old favorite, interspersed with Goldilocks’s jump-rope verse. When she escapes through the bedroom window, none of the characters are sure what sort of creature they have just encountered. The Buehner’s homey illustrations perfectly capture the facial expressions of the characters, and lend a particular kind of mischief to Goldilocks. Readers may miss the message on the copyright page, but hidden within each picture are three creatures, instantly adding challenge and appeal. Cute, but there’s not quite enough new here to make it a must. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8037-2939-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007


The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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