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Delightful for kids - delicious for "big kids", too!,
This review is from: Billy & Mr Cloudman (Kindle Edition)
This wonderfully imaginative story is alive with daydreams that come true for one little boy called Billy, but its appeal to the dreamer in all of us, youngsters and big kids alike, gives this lovely tale a much wider appeal.
We're drawn irresistibly straight into the middle of Billy's world, a world where we discover through his eyes the wonders of the natural universe, meteorology, the thrill and buzz of language's rhythms and cadences, laughter, adventure, relationships, surprises, and so much more!
The book begins right in the action, with Billy outside on a cloud, with a race in the offing. Billy's daydream "I wish I could ride on a cloud and make it dash across the sky" suddenly starts to come true when he encounters a new friend in Mr Cloudman, who shows Billy how natural phenomena like snowflakes, fog and clouds are designed and made out of ideas and imagination. The author shows us comic and touching glimpses all through the story of how Billy and the reader can look at nature in a childlike, celebratory way, discovering exciting new things about life on the way.
A starling is shown its inner beauty after it flies smack into Billy's head as he hurtles along on his cloud in "L-plate" mode! In a message that we could all usefully learn, the crotchety starling discovers its own inner beauty, as Billy helps it see that far from being "old measles face" as the other birds call him, to childlike eyes, the bird's iridescent plumage is exotic and beautiful. "The Ugly Duckling" could hardly teach this lesson of the transforming power of appreciation more deftly and charmingly that Kathy Laity does here and elsewhere in this book.
The imagery and hypnotic power of the vocabulary the author uses mean that, while the book is not illustrated, the reader's imagination is stimulated and given full rein to savour the amazing world of animals, birds, mountainsides, jungles, seas and skies, conjured clearly in the mind's eye of wonder. I love the onomatopoeic joy of phrases like "A huge clawed paw swiped the air," dissolving into comic touches like "cutting through Mr Cloudman's bottom lining, but missing Billy's feet," and nonsense, giggle-inducing lines like "Hmm, to the NeverNeverland of NogoNogo" which remind us that this book is meant to be shared aloud and makes an ideal bedtime story after watching the sunset creep across the sky at the end of another enchanting day.
The story is full of gentle comedy and charming moments of freshness. At any age, we can have fun seeing Billy trying to hug the cloud and his hands slipping through. Children will understand cause and effect as Billy's attempts to "show off" driving his cloud bring him crashing to earth, buffered by his cushiony new friend Cloudman!
Children and grown ups alike can enjoy the way certain familiar phrases and ideas puzzle us, but here, in the world of creative daydream seem to make sense: "Billy sucked in his breath, thinking it might make him smaller. He felt sure if he let it out, he's be too fat and they'd get stuck. After all, when his dad was passing a car too closely, he always said, "breathe in now!" comes as they squeeze in between two vertical rock faces. The story builds on the familiar to unleash a child's imagination to re-dream the world around and make exciting new discoveries.
There are so many wonderful discoveries to be made here: the notion that it's the ideas of schoolchildren that transform the blueprint for a snowflake into each and every individual and unique flake. Billy's suggestions about fish scales (we learn about a real "mackerel sky"!), dolphin-unicorns (you'll never think of a narwhal in quite the same way after reading this!), dinosaurs (a wonderful passage where a dinosaur-dragon creature from Billy's imagination helps to paint the fiery colours of a special sunset) are all used by Cloudman in designing the cloudscapes even Billy's friend can enjoy from below on terra firma.
A creator who really shares and participates in the lives of his creation, where even the tiniest child can contribute his and her part in the plan, holds this tale together irresistibly with an upbeat, optimistic though never heavy-handed touch. The snuggle-down-safely-to-sleep message of "we can recreate them and they can live forever in the sky" leads to the climax of the last chapter's "Grand Finale" where Cloudman helps little Billy recreate all they've seen together in the form of the clouds and the sunset. The structure of the tale, as we are reminded of the creatures we met earlier when each one is recreated in cloud form, will enable a young audience or reader to join in and remember the familiar details as the story moves to its satisfying close.
The mention that Mr Cloudman has now left (as regretfully as we readers leave this exquisite story!) for his nightly duties on the moon, make me hope that there may be more in this series in the future. Download this delicious piece of vibrant, reassuring, comical, life-enhancing dream-weaving today and let readers of all ages in your own corner of the clouds fly into its refreshing landscapes of delight.