This little gem of a book is one that we’ve started pulling out of the bookcase quite regularly recently. We already loved ‘The Lost Stars’, by the same author and although this book is quite different in content, the colourful and emotive illustrations work equally well here.
The book has a simple plot and less text than some of the others we’re reading at the moment, but that seems to be an effective formula for provoking further discussion. The story follows a little girl in an art class, who doesn’t draw anything and has a black cloud over her head all the time. Most people ignore her, but one other little girl takes the time and effort to try and befriend her, even though her efforts seem initially futile.
She doesn’t give up, however, deciding that perhaps the sad / angry / upset little girl might like to join in a drawing activity instead of talking. Eventually, she is not only rewarded with a smile, but with the fact that all the other children in the class join in her sharing task as well. The black cloud has disappeared (or has been dealt with, anyway).
This book has a lot of valuable messages that both I and the boys have enjoyed discussing and then putting into action. Firstly, we all get sad, angry or upset sometimes but – as is so beautifully presented here – a problem shared often is a problem halved and talking about what’s on our minds can help deal with the problem much more quickly.
C demonstrated this only this morning, when instead of simply snatching a toy from H and running off, he said, “I feel quite cross and sad about H having that toy because it’s my new one that I got for being good at parents evening and I don’t feel ready to share it yet.” Yep, those were his actual words. I know I’m heavily biased, but I was pretty impressed that a three year-old was able to tell us so clearly how he was feeling. It didn’t stop him trying to snatch the toy from H two minutes later, but at least we knew that, in his mind, this was a fairly serious issue and not just a petty squabble.
Secondly, given that H doesn’t talk that much yet, ‘The Cloud’ helps us explain to C that his little brother can’t always tell us how he’s feeling in words, so he might show us in different ways. My husband and I can often interpret what H wants quite easily, but obviously that’s a tough call for C and he does get frustrated by H’s actions sometimes.
Thirdly, I love the message that we can deal with our feelings through creative expression. The small black clouds that appear in the little girl’s pictures show us that she might not want or feel able to talk about what’s going on, but she can find a release for those feelings in another way. If I were to sit and talk to C and H endlessly about their feelings, especially when they were cross or upset, I think we’d all end up in big old mess. However, if we sit and draw, or read a book, or do some gluing (both boys are pretty keen on sticking stuff together given the chance), I often find that we resolve things quietly and almost by accident as we chat away, absorbed in a neutral task.
Although the classes I used to teach were at the upper end of primary school so much older than C and H, this is still a book I’d like to have had in my own personal library as a teacher as I can think of many children who would have found it useful.
This is the second book that the boys and I are finding particularly helpful at the moment. H has just got to the stage where he is really able to play with C (and give him a run for his money with a good rumble as well) and at the moment he just wants to do whatever C does. C takes this as flattering most of the time, but does occasionally get fed up with being followed and mimicked constantly. Therefore, he had a lot of stories of his own he wanted to share when we came across this first page…!
The plot follows Cat following Dog on a series of exciting adventures, with Dog getting increasingly fed up and eventually confronting Cat (on the Moon, obviously).
Cat hears Dog’s message loud and clear and immediately stops accompanying her on her daily expeditions. Very quickly, Dog realises that actually, she sort of, kind of, quite misses Cat, so goes round to see her. It turns out that Cat’s been ill, so Dog nurses him, only to then become ill and thus be a ‘copycat’ herself!
Both boys enjoy the fact that Cat eventually throws off his underdog (ha ha!) status and the two friends continue their relationship on a more equal footing. At the moment, C does have the upper hand in most of the games and adventures the two of them share, but H is gradually showing us that he’s a bit more of a daredevil than his big brother and therefore I imagine it won’t be long before the tables start turning.
The stylish illustrations, which are in some ways reminiscent of Oliver Jeffers’ work (though they most definitely are not copies (see what I did there?!?!) and Mark Birchall is clearly very talented in his own right), intertwine very well with the text and the endpapers in this book are some of the most enjoyable we’ve come across in a while.
Two lovely books that deal with pertinent toddler issues, two very clever author-illustrators, two happy Story Seeking boys! Couldn’t ask for much more than that.
Disclaimer: I received my copies of these books from the publisher. I was not asked to write this post, nor was I given any money for doing so, and the reviews represent my own honest opinion.