Monday, July 11, 2011


By Tom Lichtenheld

(Henry Holt and Company, 2011)

That's right, Cloudette, not Claudette. I grabbed this book for its originality in creating a new character. If talking hamsters make you cringe, Cloudette, the "cute little cumulus" could precipitate a thunderous objection. Still, I was captivated by Cloudette and her sunny disposition.

Cloudette is tiny. Sometimes that has its advantages, but Cloudette longs to do something big and important. The other bigger clouds create storm fronts, thunderstorms and enough snow to shut down school for a day. (Important, indeed!)

Cloudette faces rejection on her quest to make a difference. The car wash is automated and the plants at the nursery need LOTS of water. Cloudette doesn't matter.

It takes a fierce storm with strong winds to blow Cloudette to a new environment where she finally finds the perfect opportunity.

This is a clever twist on the "different is special" story formula. I read it to a grade one class to see if the students could take to a cloud as a main character and they empathized and cheered for Cloudette in a snap. There is an undercurrent of science appeal in the book as well as kids see the value of rain and become casually introduced to terms like cold front, cumulus and precipitation. Still, the story is what stands out.

The illustrations are often splashed with sky blue backgrounds (naturally). Lichtenheld also has a fondness for yellow, helping to brighten each page. The art figures don't pop, but that helps the viewer focus more on the expressive facial reactions given to Cloudette.

Cloudette would make a good rainy day read.

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