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THE CLOUD SPINNER by Michael Catchpool Kirkus Star


by Michael Catchpool & illustrated by Alison Jay

Pub Date: March 13th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-375-87011-8
Publisher: Knopf

A boy with a singular talent catches the eye of the king, with ominous results, but it turns out well.

In rhythmic text that holds an occasional rhyme, the story unfolds. The boy weaves wondrous cloth from the clouds: gold in the morning, white in the afternoon, crimson at sunset, “[j]ust as his mother had taught him.” His mother also taught him to be sparing, so he uses just enough to weave a white scarf to protect his head from the heat of the day, and a gold and crimson one to keep him warm in the cold. The king, recognizing the beauty of the scarves, demands the boy weave a scarf for him. The boy boldly says the king does not need this, but the king insists. When he gets the scarf, he wants a cloak and dresses for his wife and daughter besides. The boy sadly complies, but then there are no more clouds, hence no rain, and the kingdom suffers. The young princess, however, returns the weaving to the boy, who releases the yarn and restores the clouds. Much happens in Jay’s luminous, crackle-finish pictures. Almost every cloud adopts a shape, from hats to fishes and strange creatures. The hills and the houses have gentle or surprised faces made of flowers and wildlife or windows and doors, so subtle one only notices them on the second or third reading. Her figures have roly-poly bodies and tiny heads, her colors simply glow.

There are definitely lessons about taking only what you need, about care for the needs of others and about listening to what is unsaid, but they are fully inside the story and only add to the pleasure.

(Picture book. 5-8)