The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool, illustrated by Alison Jay
This is the story of a boy who could weave cloth out of clouds. The color of the thread would change throughout the day, as the clouds’ colors shifted with the changing light. There was gold in the morning, white in the afternoon, and crimson in the evening. The boy had learned from his mother to only use as much as he needed, nothing more. But when the boy’s amazing scarf caught the eye of the king as he rode through town, the boy was ordered to create a scarf for the king. The king was pleased with the scarf and immediately ordered the boy to create a cloak and also dresses for the Queen and the Princess. The boy spun and spun, pulling the clouds from the sky until there were no clouds left at all. Then the rain stopped falling and a terrible drought hit the country. It will take two children to figure out how to fix it.
Catchpool has written a very enjoyable tale with a strong environmental heart. The story is structured as a traditional folktale, rather than a modern one. It has lines that repeat, a medieval setting, and the play of rich and powerful against poor subjects. The book reads aloud well, thanks not only to the structure, but also to the writing being clear yet filled with lovely little details such as the colors of the thread from the clouds.
Jay’s illustrations are done in her signature crackle glazed style. That lends a sense of history and time to the entire work. Her pictures are filled with light and color. Keep an eye out for the smiling hills that dot the countryside, a jaunty little touch.
A timely picture book about conservation, the environment and using just what you need and no more, this picture book would make a great addition to Earth Day or green programming. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Alfred A. Knopf.