For imaginative minds, they are a medium for wondrous works of art. They provide shade from sweltering sunshine. If you are looking for predictors of weather, they are highly accurate. As a part of one of this planet's cycles, they ensure the continuance of life.
And, they make the most splendid best friends. Lizzy and the Cloud (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, May 3, 2022) written and illustrated by The Fan Brothers expands our thinking by exploring a fantastical "what-if" scenario. Lizzy and readers discover nature is a willing teacher if we are ready to learn.
It was Saturday.
Every Saturday, Lizzy went
for a walk with her parents.
People, young and old, gathered at the park on Saturdays. Rather than ride on the carousel, watch a juggler or a puppet show, or enjoy the fountain or canopy of large trees, Lizzy quickly hurried toward the Cloud Seller. Floating on the subtle breeze like balloons, clouds on strings in all shapes and sizes were held by the man. All Lizzy wanted was the most ordinary of clouds.
In her bedroom at home, Lizzy read over the instructions for cloud care. There was a list of eight. The first item was to name your cloud. Lizzy named her cloud Milo.
Lizzy, consistently and carefully, followed each direction. She watered Milo and took him for walks with her parents. Milo loved rainy weather. As the seasons passed, Milo grew and grew and grew. Lizzy could not seem to stop Milo from growing. He filled the ceiling in her room.
That night, Milo reacted as could be expected and Lizzy remembered item number eight. In the morning, Lizzy did not need a list to know what to do. Her heart was speaking to her. Milo would always be a part of Lizzy. Friends are. Upward.
The imaginations of The Fan Brothers, Eric Fan and Terry Fan, are like those of cloud watchers. They see beauty and possibilities when they look to the skies. Their words take us to a time and place just beyond reality. With two words, Cloud Seller, we know this story is going to be extraordinary. Simple, profound declarative sentences and phrases wrap around us, bringing us into this story of a girl and her cloud. They leave room for our minds to grow like Milo and for the artwork to elevate the narrative. Here is a passage.
The clouds bobbed gently up and down
with every breath of wind.
Some were puffy and round.
Others were wispy and almost-not-there.
There was a parrot, a rabbit, a fish, and
an elephant . . . .
Using a muted color palette, The Fan Brothers take us into Lizzy's world. The soft green shown on the open dust jacket extends flap edge to flap edge. We meet Lizzy and her cloud on the front highlighted with bright spots of yellow and the hint of a rainbow. To the left, on the back, we are inside Lizzy's home. Our eyes are drawn to a coat tree. There hangs Lizzy's rain gear. Her boots are next to the tree. On the dust jacket, front and back, Lizzy, her rain gear, and the title text are varnished.
On the book case, the background is the same delicate hue. To the left of the yellow spine is the coat tree. On it hangs Lizzy's winter coat and yellow scarf. A bit of snow is on the floor. There are Lizzy's charcoal-colored boots. On the front of the book Lizzy stands with her cloud. The cloud is snowing on Lizzy. Her scarf is wrapped around her lower face. She is wearing a fur-trimmed hat, her plaid coat and fur-trimmed boots. She stands in a pile of snow. It is not snowing anywhere else.
On the opening and closing endpapers is the patterned wallpaper used in Lizzy's home. Together there are twenty-three different framed portraits and photographs on the walls. As you look at each one, you wonder at their significance.
rendered in pencil and colored digitally
envelope you everywhere you look. We immediately feel a tenderness for Lizzy. We love seeing her small teddy bear resting on a pillow on her bed. We wonder about a little girl who loves orchids, plants, and ferns. We sense a security in her life with the walks she takes with her parents to the park, through their town, and on trips to the beach.
The Fan Brothers alternate their image sizes. There are full-page pictures, double-page images, several smaller images on a single page with no words, and double-page visuals with no words. Perspectives shift. Sometimes we are given a panoramic view as when Lizzy and her parents enter the park or walk down Main Street in the evening. Other times we are very close. When Lizzy is reading
Caring for Your Cloud
all we see are her hands and the yellow piece of paper. The choices by the brothers to use color or not are intentional and brilliant. Knowing them, I savored every image looking for extra details. (Hello, William.) Oh, and their details are exquisite, simply stunning.
One of my many favorite illustrations is a two-page picture. It is nighttime. Outside one of Lizzy's bedroom windows we can see it is a full moon night. Inside her room the cloud is darkening and there is a small bolt of lightning. On the left side, Lizzy stands wearing her yellow rain gear. She is looking up and holding a bucket as it begins to rain in her room. Among her plants on the right side are pots, pans, and dishware ready to hold the rain. There are also cups, bowls, and a glass on her bed. Her teddy bear is sitting upright. The use of light and shading in this image is excellent.
Whether this title is read by individuals or as a read aloud with a group, you will hear requests for "read it again." There will be discussions about pets, friendship, care, and knowing when the right thing needs to be done. I believe there will be an increased interest in clouds, too. Lizzy and the Cloud written and illustrated by The Fan Brothers, Eric Fan and Terry Fan, is one to have in every personal and professional collection.
To learn more about The Fan Brothers and their other work, please follow the link attached to their name to access their website. The Fan Brothers have an account on Facebook. Eric Fan has an account on Facebook as does Terry Fan. Eric Fan and Terry Fan have accounts on Instagram. The Fan Brothers have an account on Instagram. Eric Fan has an account on Twitter. At the publisher's website, you can view interior images. There are more illustrations to see at The Fan Brother's website.