Friday, November 8, 2013

The Cloud Spinner - Perfect Picture Book Friday

Last weekend, after my usually-mild-mannered daughter had an "episode" in the car over something she NEEDED SO BAD and RIGHT NOW, I responded like this:

"Young lady, we need to have a talk about needs and wants."

She replied something to the effect of [**sigh**] "I know the difference, Mom."

"How do you know the difference?" I asked.

"Well, no one has ever told me directly," (yes, she really speaks that way), "but you hear teachers and grown-ups saying stuff like that all the time."

Good, I thought to myself. But I gave her a direct lecture about needs and wants anyway, just to be sure.

Little did I know, my 4-year-old son was quietly absorbing it all from the car seat behind me. (He was probably stunned and speechless that he wasn't being the one lectured for once.)

The next morning at breakfast, when his sister grabbed for extra pieces of bacon while singing a sort of a makeshift ode to bacon, my son felt the need to speak up.

"You know, bacon isn't a need. Nobody needs bacon to live."

And then his sister responded, cleverly, as always.

"Yeah? But without bacon, what kind of life is that?"

My 4-year-old was rendered speechless for the second time in 24 hours, thinking about what a life without bacon might really be like. Within a minute, he reached for another piece of bacon and they both began singing the love of bacon song. I stared at my plate, wondering what to make of the whole situation.
4 snapshots from this year's Mother's Day gift;
glad my love and kindness got in there somewhere.
As I reflected on the weekend, my thoughts brought a picture book to mind—one we had really fallen in love with a few months ago. It was the perfect story to re-read and continue our little "needs vs. wants" discussion in a beautiful, engaging, and non-lectury way.

So that brings me to today's PERFECT PICTURE BOOK selection:

Title: The Cloud Spinner

Author: Michael Catchpool

Illustrator: Alison Jay

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012 (originally published in slightly different form in Great Britain as Cloth from the Clouds by Gullane Children's Books, London, 2012)

Genre: Folk Tale / Myth, Fiction, Picture Book

Age: 4-8

Topics: Needs vs. Wants, Cautionary Tale, Nature, Folk Tale, Conscience, Conservation

Sypnosis (I took this from the jacketflap)—"A magical tale about the beauty and fragility of our natural world, and the wisdom and courage needed to protect it."

Opening line: "There once was a boy who could weave cloth from the clouds."

Why I chose this book: Besides what I shared in the post above, this book is an instant classic. It has all of the wisdom and truth and magic of any great story, and despite it's obvious "lesson" or "moral," it doesn't seem heavy handed because of the fact that Catchpool makes the adult characters less wise than the children, who end up saving the day. Anyone who has children or pays attention to them closely knows that most often, they are much wiser, more honest, and more open than the rest of us.

The language and art are beautiful, and this book gives me hope that there's still room in the trade market for quiet books with poetic language and a timely message for our world.

Additional Resources:

In the book, the clouds are depicted in all sorts of colors, depending on how the sunlight is reflecting off of them. This might be a great way for a science teacher to introduce what clouds are really made of, or an art teacher to begin a unit on imitating nature in watercolor. Here are some cloud resource pages for kids:

For scientific info and activities on real clouds: (scroll to bottom for activities!)

For creative art projects featuring different ways to "make" clouds:

This book is also an obvious segue to discussions about environmental conversation. National Geographic has a character named Zippy who will give your kids a few tips on being green:

Of course, don't forget the possible tie-ins to actual spinning. Since I live just a few miles away from an amazing living history museum called Heritage Hill, my children have gotten to card wool and watch artisans spin, knit, and crochet. But if your children haven't gotten the chance to see it, here's a 2-minute video!

And then, if you want to "spin" something more creative than yarn, there's always cotton candy—sure to be a hit with any classroom. Here's how to make it without a machine:

Have a great weekend! Comments are open!


Joanna said...

Not sure which I enjoyed most, the Bacon story or this beautiful review of a magical book!

Wendy said...

With kids like yours at home, PiBoIdMo should be a breeze! Thanks for sharing a peek of your life along with the book.

Carrie F said...

I loved your story, Miranda...even more than bacon. :-) This book looks fantastic - I will look for it at the library.

Patricia T. said...

The bacon story is priceless. I agree with Wendy, you should have an endless source of picture book ideas from your kids. The book choice was perfect. I believe I've heard about the book, but haven't read the story. Will check it out. It does sound magical!

Joanne Roberts said...

I've always wanted to read this book. Thanks for making that "want" into a "need" ;)

As for what to make of your children's charming exchange, make a picture book of course!

Happy PiBoIdMo!

Cathy Ballou Mealey said...

My kids refuse to eat bacon.

I cannot understand how we can possibly be related!

But we all love books, and this one looks like a winner!

Anonymous said...

The cover looks stunning. Thanks for including the cool videos too. Love the bacon story - brings The Runaway Dinner to mind:

Stacy S. Jensen said...

We'll check this one out. Love the bacon story.

Vivian Kirkfield said... many thanks for this wonderful review. Just the title alone is enough to make me want to read it myself!
And the cotton candy making video...oh my gosh...what fun!!!
And the bacon took me back 30 years to when my three kids were growing up...they definitely NEEDED bacon.:) :)

Jarm Del Boccio said...

Love your "needs vs wants" family story, and how well it fit with today's pick. . .thanks for sharing it, Miranda!

Tina Cho said...

My son LOVES bacon, too! I love that card your son made you. Sounds like u need to write a bacon story! And I've never seen anyone make homemade cotton candy before. That was cool. Thanks, Miranda!

patientdreamer said...

Love the beautifully illustrated book. Also love the message it gives. Interesting video links, especially the cotton candy. Your kids are great!

Elaine Kiely Kearns said...

Great post. I totally love bacon, so I'd make it a need.

Ramona said...

Love hearing about your children and their bacon story and about a new book!

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

It's good to know some people really appreciate bacon :) Love this book - in fact, I had chosen it for today but then didn't have time to post it so used an old one!

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