Cloudette. Cloudette is a little bitty soft white cloud. A friendly little cumulus cream puff whose name, as I say, is Cloudette. I could say that all day: isn't it satisfying when you come upon something that is that just-right and self-evident? "Yes," you think. "Of course her name is Cloudette." It's so clever - not show-offy clever, just cute clever. Clever like putting bacon in a chocolate bar. Anyone could have thought of it. But you know what? Tom Lichtenheld thought of it.
And since Tom Lichtenheld thought of it, he got to write a story for Cloudette, too. It's not a very complicated story. It's got a status quo, a note of dissatisfaction, crisis, venue change, and resolution. That's a nice arc, and in Lichtenheld's hands it has balance and excellent pace. It's a story that's built like a brick... rainbow.
And then he paints that rainbow! Well, draws and paints. And great wobbly Moses, is this good work! That thing about how Cloudette's name is just perfect without being *ting* PERFECT, fascist-perfect, U Can't Touch This perfect... that's how Tom Lichtenheld's line is in this book. Inky, toothy outlines; textures that look like what they're supposed to be without grabbing the eye; shading that is so proficient he should be teaching a class in it.
Cloudette is drawn from scratch each time she appears - no digital cut and paste here - and on every page, whether she is the main subject or teeny in the background, she is recognizable, expressive, and adorable.
And dude, she's a cloud. He's done all that with a cloud. There are also eagles, giraffes and people in this book, and they are equally cute and expressive. Even the potted plants in this book are friendly and insouciant. The layered shadings of porous colored pencil are brilliant and lovely without being all "Look what an artiste I am!" More like, "Hey check it, I've been drawing a lot of clouds lately, and it seems like they all look better with a little smidge of purple!"
Look at that cover! Come on, that could be the shopping bag for a really great children's clothes store, one that had a big play area in the corner with wooden farm animals and bean bags. Jeez, I even love the script he uses for the title.
I better stop. But I could go on. Really. I love this guy's work - I loved Shark vs. Train so much that every time there's a pickup game of anything, I make the teams the Sharks and the Trains. But I kind of want to adopt Cloudette.
Also reviewed at 100 Scope Notes, as one might expect. Travis and I seem to always pick the same picture books to love!