Reviews /

Lizzy and the Cloud

Authored by Eric Fan
Illustrated by Terry Fan
Published by Frances Lincoln Publishers Ltd

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Lizzy and the Cloud: When you are a fan of the Fan Brothers, the arrival of a new picture book from them is the highlight of the week and their latest, Lizzy and the Cloud, is no exception.

Lizzy and the Cloud begins when Lizzy visits the fairground with her parents. While most of the other children are drawn the colourful attractions of the merry-go-round, the puppet show and juggler, Lizzy heads straight for the not so fashionable cloud seller and picks out a pet cloud to buy. There are lots of animal shaped clouds but Lizzy buys a classic ordinary cloud-shaped one, takes it home and calls it Milo. Once home Lizzy takes her cloud to her bedroom and reads the instructions, Caring for Your Cloud. We can see from inside her bedroom, that Lizzy is a keen gardener with lots of healthy potted rare orchids, plants and ferns in her bedroom window. The instruction sheet takes up a whole page of the book and it is certainly a talking point at this stage of the story to think about possible predictions of what may happen next as the story progresses, especially with the last instruction, Never confine a cloud to a small space.

So, as Lizzy sets about caring for her cloud, we see a reciprocal relationship developing between them: Lizzy waters Milo and Milo waters her plants.  The plants grow, flower and turn more luscious shades of green beneath Milo and we see Milo growing too, reminding us of that last instruction on the leaflet that I mentioned above: Never confine a cloud to a small space. So even though Lizzy takes her cloud out for walks on sunny days and snowy days, hangs it out of the window on rainy days, takes it on holiday to the seaside, the day finally arrives when Milo has grown so big for her bedroom that a thunderstorm looms in there and it is with a heavy heart that Lizzy realises it is time to let Milo float free. ‘Stay close to the bigger clouds!’ Lizzy called out to him, with a voice more suited to small quiet rooms, not the big open sky. The story ends with Lizzy keeping an eye out for Milo whenever the sky was cloudy and waving to a fluffy cloud, just in case…

The illustrations are an absolute pleasure from the endpapers and everything in between. Let’s start first with the colours. Most of the pages are illustrated in different muted shades of grey with some objects standing out in a contrasting sunshine yellow. Lizzy’s wellington boots are yellow as is her watering can in her bedroom, and these splashes of yellow lift and bring a sense of sunshine and joy onto the page. It would be interesting to explore the story from this perspective: looking at what objects are yellow and why they may be chosen. And why yellow? Does it symbolise sunshine, happiness or something else? There are also wonderful images of street scenes and the very colourful fairground at the beginning (the only double spread that is in full colour) with so much detail to look at, talk about, ask questions and imagine who the different people are, what is going on behind the windows and doors and more that could be a good starting point for discussion and creative writing.

At the end of the story when Lizzy releases Milo, there are three double spreads of tall buildings across streets seen from above which would be a perfect parting point to inspire KS2 children to try out their own perspective drawings. Again, there are so many details to pore over and discuss. On one page you can see the cloud seller, there are cars from different eras, horses and horse-drawn carriages. I even had a mind to get out other Fan Brothers picture books to spot characters as I am sure I could see the night gardener with his ladder walking towards some trees. I also loved the additional instruction added to Caring for Your Cloud instruction sheet at the end, hand-written from Lizzy: Let Your Cloud Float Free. The gentle text sits perfectly throughout, full of warmth, giving us enough but at the same time stirring our imagination as it unfolds, to give us a story to remember.

And finally on illustrations, the endpapers are framed family portraits of Lizzy, her mum and dad, Milo and also what looks like other possible pets Lizzy may have had including a whale, a crocodile and a giraffe. There’s also a picture frame with a set of old keys with the label, Keys For Unknown Doors. So much fun to be had with each of the pictures, imagining the names Lizzy may have given the pets and what has happened to them and the significance of all the objects framed.

The setting of the story has a timeless quality: there is the early 20th century cars and shopfronts which is quite retro feel; the scenes of Lizzie at home with her plants feels more recent and modern and the fairground images create a surreal magical fantasy feel with the cloud seller and some of the animals on the merry-go-round looking like they are real and could hop off at any moment.

Lizzy and the Cloud is an utterly charming story that explores themes of growth, nurturing, change and knowing when to let go and would be a rich resource in all primary age classrooms from early years to upper KS2 and indeed is a book and story for readers of all ages. It is quite simply a joy from beginning to end and one you will want to return to again and again.