Rapunzel: Sarah Gibb
King Jack and the Dragon: Peter Bently & Helen Oxenbury

Cloudette: Tom Lichtenheld

Book: Cloudette
Author: Tom Lichtenheld
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3 - 8

CloudetteCoverSmallCloudette is a great name for a picture book, isn't it? Written and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld (whose work can also be seen in Shark vs. Train, written by Chris Barton, and Duck! Rabbit!, written with Amy Krouse Rosenthal), Cloudette is the story of a very small cloud who wants to do big things. Despite being rebuffed in a number of attempts (the carwash uses machines, the firefighters "just got a brand-new pumper truck", etc.), the little cloud that could eventually finds a way to make a difference.

The text in Cloudette is frequently formatted to match the content, so it's a little hard to convey in quotes. But here's an example:

"She wanted to make a garden grow.

She wanted
  to make
     a brook


In the above, the brook text goes along the side of a brook, and waterfall text, well, you get the idea. Here's the description when Cloudette first tries to make rain:

"She shook her behind
until it made a little
rumbling sound--not quite
what you'd call thunder,
but enough to let people
know they might want to
grab an umbrella.

Then she did what she'd
wanted to do for ages."

I think, actually, that Cloudette may be that rare picture book that's more suited to being read silently, really looking at the interplay of the text and pictures, rather than read aloud. I certainly think that it's more suited to one-on-one reading than to large group read-aloud.

Here's the description of Lichtenheld's illustration method from the copyright page of the book:

"The illustrations are rendered in ink, pastel, colored pencil, and watercolor. The water part of the watercolor was collected in a bucket during a rainstorm, so this book is partially made of clouds. Thank you, clouds."

Serious points to Lichtenheld for that touch. Not that I think many kids will notice this in the fine print, but what a great tidbit to trot out during school visits. Parents had best be prepared for rain-watercolor sessions afterwards, though.

Watercolor aside, Lichtenheld's illustrations have a graphic arts sort of feel, a tiny bit like Melanie Watt's Scaredy Squirrel books. There are insets and callouts and asterisks  and funny little asides (like a kite asking "What's up?" and a bird answering "Us!"). There are split pages, with different backgrounds for the illustrations on each side. There are clouds with eyes and mouths (clouds apparently don't need noses. Who knew?). And through it all, there's the appeal of cute little Cloudette.

Cloudette is a book that grows on you the more you flip through it. The heroine herself is adorable, the illustrations are eye-catching (and filled with humorous tidbits), and there's plenty of visual appeal to the layout. The ending is a bit predictable, perhaps, but certainly kid-friendly. Recommended for one-one-one reading sessions with preschoolers, sure to bring smiles to young readers' faces.

Publisher: Henry Holt Books for Young Readers (@MacKidsBooks)
Publication Date: March 1, 2011
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Jordyn

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).