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I’m sometimes called the Bread-Bike-Book Woman by people who recognise me in the community but don’t know me by name; I go everywhere by bike and my basket is nearly always full of either baguettes and or books.
Shop assistants will ask what I’ve borrowed from the library, or let me know when the fresh bread is cheap at the end of the day. It’s a sobriquet I’m quite at ease with
Tom McLaughlin‘s The Cloudspotter is actually called Franklin, but because of his passion for watching the sky and imagining what he can see high above him, everyone calls him after his hobby.
To some, the Cloudspotter might appear isolated; Indeed, he doesn’t have many friends.
But what he does have is bags and bags of imagination. He can look at the sky and imagine stories galore in which he’s a hero, and adventurer or an explorer. Simply put, he’s very happy with his head in the clouds.
One day, however, Scruffy Dog arrives on the scene. The Cloudspotter doesn’t want to share his adventures and poor Scruffy is sent packing. But could it be that Scruffy wasn’t trying to take anything away from Franklin? Perhaps he was trying to offer him something? Something kind and full of heart, to make adventures and exploring, on earth or in the sky, even more enjoyable?
Tom McLaughlin’s quiet and thoughtful story is a lovely celebration of the power of imagination to provide comfort and joy, as well as solace. The Cloudspotter also acknowledges that it’s quite OK to be a bit different, to daydream. It shows how when friendship comes knocking it’s about doubling – rather than halving – fun and games through sharing.
All in all a delightful book to encourage us all to be open to spotting more adventures in the world around us.
After sharing The Cloudspotter with my girls, I prepared somewhere comfortable to do a bit of our own cloud spotting…
…we lounged around and saw lots of scenes like this…
…then we went over to the paint station…
…and started covering large sheets of paper with various shades of blue, mixing in PVA as we went. The large sheets of paper were strips of wallpaper lining. The PVA (glue) was mixed in so that we could start sticking “clouds” onto our skies as soon as the paper was covered:
We used a mixture of cotton wool and toy stuffing for the clouds, exploring the different ways these materials stretch and becoming wispy.
Whilst our sky scenes dried, it turned out that cleaning up after painting was almost as much fun as creating our art!
A few hours later, our skies were ready to go above beds, enabling hours of relaxing cloud spotting. Here’s what the kids can now see as they lie with their heads on their pillows:
What can you see in our clouds?
Music to spot clouds by could include:
Blue Clouds by Elizabeth Mitchell and You Are My Flower
Baby Cloud by Caspar Babypants
Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell
Other activities which could be great fun to try out alongside reading The Cloudspotter include:
My last thematic list focused on water and the water cycle. It did not include books on clouds or any form of precipitation. These things are integral components in the water cycle and are necessary for returning water to the earth's surface.
Here's an annotated list of books that examine clouds and precipitation and the role they play in the water cycle and weather. You'll also find books here that celebrate rain and snow with lush images and sensory descriptions.
Nonfiction Picture Books
The Cloud Book(1984), written and illustrated by Tomie de Paola - This text focuses on different types of clouds: cirrus, cumulus, stratus, and other combinations of these three main types. The cloud types are described and presented with illustrated examples. Also included are myths about clouds and popular sayings inspired by clouds and the weather.
Clouds (2008), written by Anne Rockwell and illustrated by Frane Lessac - This book in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series describes clouds, what they are made of, what they are called, and much more. The simple, engaging text in this stage 1 book makes the content accessible to a range of age groups.
Vapor, Rain, and Snow: The Science of Clouds and Precipitation (2011), written by Paul Fleisher - At nearly 50 pages, this book is filled with information about clouds and precipitation. It opens by explaining that "Weather is what happens in the air around us. But a lot of weather is really about water." In four chapters Fleisher describes water in the air, clouds, precipitation, and atmospheric phenomena like rainbows, halos, and sun dogs.
Down Comes the Rain (1997), written by Franklyn Branley and illustrated by James Graham Hale - This book in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series follows the rain as it falls, evaporates, condenses, and falls again.
It's Raining! (2014), written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons - A perfect book for young readers, Gibbons explores rain with simple definitions, basic facts, and interesting bits of information. Readers will learn what rain is, where it comes from, and why it is necessary. Includes maps that show annual rainfall amounts around the world and information on storms.
Raindrops Roll (2015), by April Pulley Sayre - Gorgeous photographs accompany a lyrical text about water in the form of rain. Though the text is economical, it conveys a sense of wonder and beauty. Back matter examines the science of rain and includes facts about clouds, raindrop shapes, and the "abilities" of raindrops (hydrating insects, magnifying objects, and more). with facts about cloud formation, the shapes of raindrops and what they’re capable of—magnifying their surroundings, reflecting light, hydrating insects and more. Also included is a reading list for learning more.
Splish! Splash! A Book About Rain (2003), written by Josepha Sherman and illustrated by Jeff Yesh - This book uses fun pictures and simple vocabulary to explain where rain comes from and why rain is important to the earth and to humans. Sherman also delves into what happens when too much rain (flooding) or not enough rain (drought) occurs.
It's Snowing! (201), written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons - A perfect book for young readers, Gibbons explores snow with simple definitions, basic facts, and interesting bits of information. Readers will learn what snow is, how it forms, regions where snow falls, and how to prepare for a snowstorm. Also includes information on the ways in which snow falls to the ground, such as sleet, flurries, and a winter storm.
Snowflake Bentley, written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrated by Mary Azarian - This Caldecott Medal winner tells the true story of Wilson Bentley, a farmer who spent the better part of his life studying and photographing snowflakes. Willie's story is told from his childhood through his death. Accompanying the biography are a series of sidebars that contain additional facts about Bentley. The last page of the book contains a photo of Bentley at his camera (the same one at the top of the Wilson Snowflake Bentley home page), a quote about his love for photography, and three of his renowned snowflake images. This is the story of a remarkable man who pushed the limits of science and technology to create groundbreaking images of snowflakes. If the book inspires an interest in further study, you can view a number of his amazing photographs at The Bentley Snow Crystal Collection.
The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder (2009), written by Mark Cassino with Jon Nelson - Mark Cassino is a fine art and natural history photographer. Jon Nelson is a teacher and physicist who studies ice crystals and clouds. Together they have given us a stunning volume on the formation of snow. A perfect mixture of art and science, Cassino's photographs are accompanied by clearly written text that explains a very complex process in terms kids will understand. Readers will learn what snow is made from, how it forms, what shapes it takes, and more! Photos of snow crystals are included with a comparison of the enlarged images to a snow crystal of actual size. In the back matter you will find directions on how to catch snow crystals and examine them. For more ideas for extending the text, download a teacher's guide for this title at the Chronicle web site.
Snow is Falling (2000), written by Franklyn Branley and illustrated by Holly Keller - This book in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series describes the benefits and importance of snow, as well as the danger of too much of it. Back matter includes experiments and activities for cold, snowy days.
The Secret Life of a Snowflake: An Up Close Look at the Art and Science of Snowflakes, written by Kenneth Libbrecht - The author of this book is a physicist at Caltech known for his passion for snow crystals. In this book aimed at 9-12 year olds, but appropriate for a much broader (and older) audience, Libbrecht teaches readers what snow crystals and snowflakes are, where they come from, and how these amazing structures are created out of thin air. His own photographs beautifully complement the text.
All snowflakes begin with water vapor in air, but as they begin their journey toward the ground, changes in temperature and humidity determine their exact and unique shape. Libbrecht answers questions that many children (and adults) are apt to ask, such as "Why is snow white when the crystals that comprise snow are clear?" Libbrecht's web site, SnowCyrstals.com, provides a wealth of images and even more information for those readers who finish the book and want to learn more. I recommend starting with the Snowflake Primer and the Snow Crystal FAQs.
One Big Rain: Poems for a Rainy Days(2014), compiled by Rita Gray and illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke - This collection of 20 poems about rain through the seasons opens with a haiku about the season. Four additional poems follow. Gray includes eight haiku, two poems translated from other languages (Norwegian and Spanish), works by well-known poets like Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, and Eve Merriam, as well as works by poets whose names may not be familiar to readers. The illustrations in muted browns, grays, blacks and greens beautifully capture the mood and subject of the poems. The book opens with an introduction that describes rain through the seasons. Following the introduction is a note about haiku translations. Adapted from a work by poet and translator William J. Higginson, the emphasis is not on counting syllables, but on finding the best rhythm for the haiku in the new language.
Snow, Snow: Winter Poems for Children(2005), written by Jane Yolen with photographs by Jason Stemple - This collection of 13 beautifully crafted poems, inspired by stunning photographs of snowy woods, skiers, a snowmobile, and much more, will lead readers to see snow the wonder of snow and maybe even view it in a new way. One of my favorite poems in the collection begins "Somebody painted/The trees last night,/ Crept in and colored them/White on white."
Picture Books There are many, many books about snow and rain, and far too many to mention here. Instead, I am sharing my very favorite on each subject.
Listen to the Rain (1988), written Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault and illustrated by James Endicott - This is a lyrically written and gorgeously illustrated book that celebrates the beauty, the mystery, the sounds, and the silences of the rain.
Snow(1998), written and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz - Even though the adults believe that it will not snow, a boy and his dog don't give up hope. This is a Caldecott honor book that beautifully portrays the transformation of a city when it snows.
I finished this house portrait the other day. What a lovely house.
It got me thinking about skies. I do them all different - depending on the house or building, and I guess what mood I'm in. Sometimes a certain kind of sky just goes with a building - some are light, some strong, some have no clouds, some have lots, some are pretty blah, some more dramatic, etc.
Take this one for example. The house was white, so I really beefed up the sky.
But then this was was a white house too, and look what I did here.
This was an all brick building.
Evidently cookies call for drama.
Very ... controlled.
There's a storm a comin'. . .
I could do the same thing for grass - sometimes I make it really really green, other times less so. I've never had a client complain - I guess my gut instincts are doing OK. But it has me half thinking that I should offer people options for the 'mood' or feel of their drawing.
Sky: Happy pretty light blue. Intense blue. Lots of clouds. No clouds. Dramatic clouds. Wistful clouds.
Grass: Astro turf green. Mellow green grass. Needs a little water. We're having a drought, no one has a green lawn anymore.
(OK that last one would be a little too on the nose for us Californians.)
Today I'm doing a Snickers bar for a client. Will post that one next.
well, for all of you who follow me on facebook (or on here), you know i have been working on this cute little elephant over the last 4 days. it was a surprise gift for the wonderful secretary in my neurosurgeon's office, jackie, who is about to pop soon! these people have been so amazing to me through 3 neck surgeries/cervical spine/fusions that there was just NO way i could let it go without doing something. jackie has always been so lovely to me over the years that it was a no-brainer for me to want to paint her something super cute for the impending arrival of her little one.
since she's waiting until the baby is born to know whether it will be a little girl or boy, i wanted to make sure that i created/designed something gender friendly. also, it turns out, jackie LOVES elephants (like me). so, it couldn't have turned out any better.
i delivered it to her personally today and she was so surprised. her reaction made the rest of my 2013 for sure. granted, i'm a bit sore from painting so much for so many days in a row (as i'm still trying to recover fully here from my 3rd surgery) but i have to say, her reaction made the soreness worthwhile.
i have decided to sell PRINTS of this in my etsy shop found here:
is what is on the table this week. actually, i started him over the weekend and am about half way done. this cutie is a SURPRISE gift for a wonderful part of my neurosurgeon's staff...who's expecting her first baby next month. (let's hope she doesn't follow my blog, or i've just ruined the surprise...).
since the baby's gender isn't known, i decided to go with a neutral gender friendly color palette of soft yellows and a multitude of pastels. and because i'm like a child, i have to name EVERYTHING so...i named the elephant eli. could be short for elijah, if it's a boy or elison, if it's a girl.
either way, i'm super excited to deliver this to jackie. hopefully by the end of this week! these people have taken such amazing care of me in the last three years after three neck surgeries, that NOT doing something for her would just feel so wrong.
oh, and i will be selling this piece as a PRINT as soon as i get it scanned. below are some peeks at the process of little eli in slumberland. i "heart" this elephant :)
There are very important factors when it comes to being any kind of writer. It covers a whole range of books. As everyone know putting together a children's book has many people involved. It is a team effort that takes many years to master and complete. For the next three days I will take you all on a journey into this event. It is a huge gathering of people in the children book industry and covers a very important idea that every author has to do. This is called networking and creating a platform. The post will be updated daily from 1-27-2012 to 1-29-2012. Each day I will give you guys an inside into this business. So get ready for a wild ride. I blog my experience on this journey enjoy.
Day 1 Writer's Intensive
Today started just like an ordinary gray day, the rain tapped the roads and my journey had began. Strong winds and heavy rains very strange weather for New York State especially in the middle of winter. Only two snow storms so far and that it. I took the train in from my home town. New York was wonderful like usual. The rains were strong at first but as the day went on it all changed. I started the day psyched to finally have the SCBWI conference, I could not believe it came so fast. Where does this path called time really go? Does it just vanish in a puff of smoke or where does it end up? So back to business the day started with registration and breakfast not much of a filling one but it was good enough Coffee and Bagels the real New York local food. My nerves shaking and my hands gasping the 500 hundred words we were supposed to bring here. Hundreds of questions inside my hands? Who will I meet? What will the professional say? Is my manuscript good enough? At registration our tables were given to us? I got Table 17 and 18. When I was getting my food a strange thing happened the hot water was gone. I am usually a tea drinker, but I needed that jolt, I needed that caffeine. I wanted something hot but it was the bitter black stuff we call coffee. I guess many tea drinkers came here? Oh well I guess I had no choice. I found my table, my mind moving and my body shaking, it was it, the moment I have been waiting for, another year had passed. The session started by a panel on voice. Three editors spoke. What is voice? Each of them had there own view. What I can tell you guys is it needs to be fresh. It needs to be authentic. It has to stand out from the crowd. The editor panel spoke about the kind of books they buy. Here is just a very quick summary: Characters have to have personality, you have to get into your character's mind, and the story has to stand out for the individual editor and always make sure to do you research. You have to be in the moment and write the best story you can. Then the time began my table had eight writers at it and one professional. We each were given 12 minutes for our 500 words. The critique process is very important and it is great to have a group of your own. The setting here was much more family like. Every manuscript was discussed by everyone. I have to say I got a lot out of it and had many wonderful suggestions and commends from both critiques. There is no need for
World Meteorology Day marks a highly successful collaboration under the World Meteorological Organization, involving every country, large or small, rich or poor. Weather affects every single person (every living being) on the planet, but why do people feel meteorology is not for them? Why do they even find it so difficult to identify different types of cloud? Or at least they claim that it is difficult. The average person, it would seem, looks at the sky and simply thinks ‘clouds’. (Just as they look at the night sky and think nothing more than ‘stars’).
What type of clouds are these?
Is it because they think there are so many — too many to remember? Yet there are just ten major types, and most people can recognize ten different makes of cars, ten different dogs, or ten different flowers. Can’t they? Perhaps not. Some people do have poor visual discrimination: my father for one. Show him a piece of oak and a piece of pine, and he would not know, by sight, which was which. To him, it was ‘wood’. Then some people apparently suffer from a difficulty in transferring what they see in a photograph or illustration to the real world. I can think of an experienced amateur astronomer who cannot match a photograph of the night sky that he has taken to the actual constellations above his head.
There is the old philosophical argument about whether one can even think about an object or concept, without having a name for it in one’s head. Surely, however, one can have a mental image of a physical object, such as (say) a sea-cucumber, without knowing that it is called a sea-cucumber or even a holothurian? As an author, my brain functions with words, not images. I suppose that conversely, perhaps if people are unable to hold a mental image of a cumulonimbus cloud, they cannot assimilate its name.
Or is it the words themselves that put them off? Luke Howard in his seminal work On the Modification of Clouds (1802) introduced Latin terms, following the tradition set by Linnaeus. Scientifically, that was (and remains) perfectly sensible. But is that the root of the problem? It seems to be a modern myth that all Latin is ‘difficult’, and the hoi polloi — sorry, that’s Greek! — (‘the masses’) avoid it in all forms. Perhaps this fear arises because it is no longer taught widely, no longer a requirement for university entrance, and no longer (for Catholics) heard in the Latin mass. But it is at the root of so many languages and so many scientific terms that this phobia is deeply regrettable.
The words for clouds themselves are hardly difficult: terms such as nimbostratus are hardly pronounceable mouthfuls. Do people worry that, like Silas Wegg in Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend, who turned the Greek historian Polybius into the Roman virgin Polly Beeious, they will get even these wrong? I suppose I am fortunate, because I did learn Latin at school, and I speak and read various languages, so words, from whatever source, don’t frighten me. And I like to get any pronunciation right. I also have to admit that if I know a word, I tend to use it. That may be why people look at me a bit oddly w
Lots coming together. It took a couple days to detail the sky. Last time, I had used a combo of Cerulean and white for the clouds (see photo in last post). But, the clouds were too "blue." Afterwards, I went in with a fairly dry brush and added white on it's own to poof the clouds.
Doing the sky in the last couple panels took a while because I had already brought the figures and grape clusters to a greater degree of completion. Since I really don't want to rework them, I needed to be extra careful going around them.
I also opted to not put clouds behind the figures themselves. There's already a lot going on in that panel and it would be too busy overall.
After the sky, I went back over the mountains. It's time for the camera to do it's talking - to make clear any problems (as it always does). Of course, they are not "done." There will be layers of shrubbery, trees, and flowers that are so common to the Santa Maria hillsides. But, those are a top layer and will happen after the lower layers are completed.
This is a little drawing from this morning of a character that I've known about for years who might finally have stumbled into the right story.
It's been kind of a crazy week; sick dog, dentist appointments, general running around, art not going how it's supposed to. But things are starting to feel a bit more steady. I think I'll go take a moment to sit in the garden with a coffee before the day starts in earnest.
I was watching the clouds one rainy afternoon. And as they sailed swiftly across the sky in an ever-changing variety of shapes and squiggles I remembered a quote from Thomas Browne. In 1635 he wrote, “Nature is the art of God.” I thought, I believe it because right now, the entire sky looks like His own personal Etch a Sketch. I mean, first there was a hole in the clouds that morphed into a five-pointed star before it got sucked into a shrunken pinpoint that was suddenly the eye of an alligator that chased a hump-backed snake. Highly entertaining. Almost started singing, “I know an old lady who swallowed a fly . . .”
Can’t tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor. The alligator made me wonder briefly if animals ever marvel at God’s Etch a Sketch? After all, my two pooches are pretty smart and I do catch them scanning the sky every so often. Speaking of pooches, who cannot see God’s hand in all of creation: from the perfection of a playful puppy’s soft, furry paw to the swiftness of a hungry cat’s claw . . . to the flawless symmetry of a daisy or black-eyed Susan. Happenstance? Occurring by chance? I think not. After all, according to Genesis 1:24, “. . . and God said, let the earth bring forth every kind of animal — livestock, small animals, and wildlife. And so it was . . . and God said it was good.
Seen my books? “The SEED” a Novel of suspense that placed as a top ten finalist and was nominated to be put on a college required reading list. And the Johnny Vic historical adventure series (mixing treasure hunting, adventure and American history!). Go to http://www.annrichduncan.com.
If you've ever wondered where inspiration for my cloud paintings come from, here's a good example: A quick photo snapped while driving last week lent itself to this painted version. Rarely do my photos capture what the clouds truly felt like, so it becomes my need and job to paint in the memory of that color and feeling. This piece is called "Sanctuary".