“Look up! What is that apparition of dazzling brightness rising softly upon the blue sky from behind those tall and massive elms? If you saw it for the first time in your life, you would say it must be some celestial visitant. Is it light itself from heaven taking shape, and just softened and subdued to the endurance of a mortal vision? It is nothing but a cloud!—mere vapor that the unseen wind moves and molds, and that the sun shines on for a little time.” ~ William Smith, Gravenhurst, or Thoughts on Good and Evil, 1862
As we continue our bimonthly theme, Dusty Bookshelves and Library Loot, I share with you today one of the picture books in my shelf that I really adore: The Cloud Spinner, written by Michael Catchpool and illustrated by Alison Jay. The story is close to my heart, and the illustrations are beautiful. I’m glad that I finally get to feature it and write something about it.
The Boy with a Special Gift
The Cloud Spinner tells the story of a boy who has a special gift. He can spin clouds into thread: gold in the early morning with the rising sun, white in the afternoon, and crimson in the evening. Indeed, how lovely it would be if one could do such a thing!
He had a spinning wheel and a loom on top of a hill. As the clouds passed, with a whir of the wheel, he would spin them into thread…
Just as his mother had taught him.
Then, with a clickety-clack of his loom, he would weave the thread into cloth. As he worked, he sang a simple tune his mother had taught him:
“Enough is enough and not one stitch more.”
Does the story sound familiar to you? While reading this book, I imagined that lowly farmer’s daughter who was locked up in a tower and given the poor task of spinning straw into gold. Of course we all know it was Rumpelstiltskin who did all the work. Although the stories are not exactly parallel, I could not help but think of the classic tale when I read The Cloud Spinner.
The Greedy King
The Cloud Spinner also features a character we’ve seen in picture books quite a few times: the King consumed by greed. Unlike the boy who would only spin enough clouds to turn into a thread, the King, when he found out about the boy’s gift, demands to have a long scarf and beautiful dresses spun for him and his wife and daughter, respectively. The boy, of course, protests but to no avail. From here on, the story takes a turn that changes the lives of the boy, the king, and the people in the village.
Environmental Awareness and Resource Usage
On a deeper level, The Cloud Spinner is a magical tale about the beauty and fragility of our natural world, and the wisdom and courage needed to protect it. (Taken from the front jacketflap of the book.) It reminds us not to exploit nature and abuse the natural resources we get from it. In addition, this book teaches us that we must learn to take only what we need. Anything in excess is neither good nor helpful.
Classroom Activities and Resources
While I couldn’t find any direct links for teaching resources, lesson plans, or activities related to this picture book, I thought of a couple that you might find helpful. Introduce the kids to the different types of clouds. Weather Wiz Kids provides useful information on clouds, and the page is tailored for kids. It even includes a picture for each type of cloud, allowing for better visualization. Teachers can also ask the kids to draw and cut pictures of clouds. Ask the kids to come up with their own ways of protecting the environment and write their ideas inside the paper clouds. For outdoor activities, plan a mini-school outing during a cloudy day, and do some cloud-spotting by asking them what figures they see in the clouds.
Clouds: A Look at My First Love
As I have previously mentioned, The Cloud Spinner is close to my heart. While I don’t share the boy’s special gift, I consider myself a “cloud chaser,” and I take pictures of clouds every chance I get. (Sometimes, even while driving! Yikes!) Have you seen my photo feature on clouds? Visit Photo Journal/Photo Challenge: E is for Ethereal to read my brief explanation why I love clouds. I have taken hundreds of cloud pictures since I moved to California, and my collection keeps growing. Here are more cloud pictures I have taken that I would like to share with you. All photos were taken using my iPhone 4 and edited through Fotor and Snapseed.