Regular visitors to the blog will know that I love Lisa Thompson’s stories – no one quite does magical realism the way she does. And this new book is no exception.
Tabby is not having the best of times. Everything is changing around her: her ailing grandad has come to stay and the house has had to be altered to accommodate his needs, her best friend seems to be moving on with a new friend and documenting it all over social media, and she’s now responsible for walking her grandad’s dog daily. During one of these walks, she finds herself drawn towards an old, what she thinks is an uninhabited, house but catches a glimpse of movement through a window. She mentions it to her grandfather later that evening and he tells her a story about a previous owner of the house who was a cloud sculpter. But he is known for his tall tales, so Tabby dismisses the story out of hand. However, after her grandfather passes away and Tabby meets a new friend while continuing the daily dog walks, she begins to wonder if her grandad’s story could possibly be true.
This is another beautifully-written story. The mix of real-life themes such as change, grief, regret and the impact of social media on mental health will resonate with so many readers, and the addition of a little sprinkle of wonder just lifts the story to the next level. I love how the book encourages us to take a moment to look up from our screens and spend time absorbing and appreciating the natural world around us. Last weekend was a case in point: windy days that drove stunning cloud formations across the sky at quite a pace – a fast-moving landscape that was mesmerising to watch. It was just the break I needed in-between dealing with constant backdrop of sibling disagreements.
From an illustrative perspective, this book looks very different to that of Lisa’s other stories, and that’s because she has worked with a new illustrator – Alice McKinley – who has created illustrations which complement the story perfectly: the cover has an impressionist/dream-like quality (I haven’t explained that terribly well!), which I really like. The book is published by Barrington Stoke, and so has a dyslexia-friendly layout, typeface and paperstock. It’s also novella length (around 95 pages) and has been edited to a reading age of 8 with an interest age of up to 12, so that it can be enjoyed by as many readers as possible. I like this inclusive approach to publishing as I think that every child should be able to find a book with a storyline, format and style that makes reading a joy.
The House of Clouds
Author: Lisa Thompson
Illustrator: Alice McKinley
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
Paperback: 104 pages