Friday, June 20, 2014


The last few days has seen Bangalore experience some kind of a preview of the oncoming monsoon with overcast skies and briefs spells of rain. Just as we begin to rejoice in the transition into cooler days, the sun shines down in all its brilliance and bristling heat… if the clouds were only a teaser! J If you think about it, cloudy days have a lot to offer - they make your commute to work or commuting to different locations a lot tolerable without the oppressive heat,  cloudy days can hand out an excuse for your little one to walk in to school in coloured clothes as his school uniform has not dried in time and of course …cloudy days make you want to bunk office and sit by the window or your balcony curled up with a book (lucky if you are actually able to do this!)  At times.......the anticipation of rain is better than the rain itself..isn’t it??

I'd picked up this book for its title but found it to be deeper in essence and meaning. Cloudland by John Birmingham not only makes a delightful read but throws up some philosophical questions about death and afterlife in such a subtle manner that it may almost be lost on your young reader as he finds himself enchanted by its dreamy theme and captivated by its brilliant and imaginative illustrations. Albert and his parents hike high up to the mountains with clouds floating below them! As they decide to head back before dark, there occurs a terrible accident-Albert falls off the cliff! His parents look all over for him but cannot find him. But as Albert falls, he is rescued by the children living in the clouds chanting magical words that sound like  "Fumble gralley goggle ho hee, Teetum waggle bari se nee, Gargle giggle fiddle num dee" and so on and so forth! Albert suddenly feels lighter when the Cloud children offer to make him a bed of clouds on which he is seen falling asleep. Albert along with the cloud children embarks on new adventures every day encircling the clouds, like climbing up the tall clouds, jumping on them and playing cloud ball,  beating drums and blowing trumpets in their attempt to match up to the noise of thunderstorms, soaking in the rain, painting pictures by a  beautiful rainbow, racing on little clouds amidst the airplane flying above their heads, etc Albert was literally in cloud 9!  But one night as he looked down from his cloud bed, he saw lights of a city and this made him think of his mom and dad and wished he could go home! As the word spread,  the Cloud queen finds it surprising as no one has ever wanted to go back home after having lived in the clouds. But as Albert is determined, the Cloud queen treats Albert to a farewell party with the Man in the Moon. The Cloud queen has the clouds drift over the city where Albert lived and sends off Albert chanting the magical words backwards. The next thing Albert remembers is that he is back in his own room waking up to his mom and dad! So was it a just a dream or heralding a new beginning?? The main appeal of this book lies in the illustrations - John Birmingham's black and white figures set against photographic images spin a magical tale that can either be taken as-it-is or for its underlying meaning. Overall, a great book to mull over clouds, imaginary adventures, life and beyond with your young reader!

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