Reviews /

To Catch a Cloud

Authored by Elena de Roo
Illustrated by Hannah Peck
Published by Faber

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To Catch a Cloud is a rhyming tale of a cloud-chasing boy braving the stormy seas.

In the tradition of the sea shanties, it is a story that begs to be made loud, and the impact of it is not really felt until its words are performed. Elena de Roo’s poetry is bouncy and tumultuous, taking us on a rapid journey from play to peril and back again.

It is Hannah Peck’s artwork that most impresses, with much of the picture book’s uncanny mood coming from the illustration rather than the lyrics. The compositions of the protean sky are remarkable, and Peck’s personification of the wind carries real menace. The transformations are quite dreamlike, and put me in mind of ‘mood books’ in which the changing weather conditions form the main plot point.

It is enticing and strange. I found myself leafing back through it several times. It felt more disconcerting each time I did so. There’s an empty sky, There’s a wind-still sea, There’s a black sand beach, And then there’s me. These words accompany a spread of a somewhat-unwelcoming yet sort-of-beautiful landscape, and the boy’s expressions are a challenge to interpret. As a shanty, it does not leave me with any particular memorable refrains, but this somehow only feeds into the pleasurable ‘spacelessness’ of the tale.

I’d enjoy sharing it with the children to see their response to it all. I think I like it.