The Cloud Spinner

illus. by Alison Jay. unpaged. CIP. Knopf. Mar. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-87011-8; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-97011-5. LC 2011000894.
Gr 1–5—In a faraway land, a boy exhibits a most unusual talent: he can spin clouds into marvelously glimmering cloth. The king discovers and covets his skill and demands sartorial wonders for the entire royal family. The cloud spinner knows that this is not the proper use for the yarn, but who can refuse the barked orders of a king? Sure enough, the clouds run out, the rain ceases, and Earth suffers as a result. Whereas Lynd Ward and Virginia Lee Burton anthropomorphized lighthouses and steam shovels to give children an opportunity to connect with their social and technological milieus, Jay makes the environment come alive—each hill has a soft, friendly face. When the clouds are used up, one by one, the hills turn brown and their smiles turn down. Even the youngest child will empathize with the pain the planet feels. Nearly all of the illustrations are land-swept views and resemble illuminated manuscripts in their use of cobalt, aquamarine, and golden hues. The soft edges look handcrafted due to the thick paper, and they have a warm, centuries-old look due to Jay's unique style using cracked varnish and alkyd paint. This timely tale focuses not on recycling, or repurposing, but on reducing. We need more stories like this one to make the Earth come alive for small children to behold and love.—Sara Lissa Paulson, American Sign Language and English Lower School PS 347, New York City
A young boy can spin clouds into beautiful cloth. His mother taught him prudence--"Enough is enough and not one stitch more"--but a greedy king demands an excess of fine clothing. When the clouds run out, causing a drought, the princess helps the boy make things right. Jay's familiar crackle-varnished art strengthens Catchpool's whimsical cautionary tale of avarice.

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