32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99
Franklin, aka The Cloudspotter, is obsessed with clouds. Big ones, squeaky ones, sneaky, pretend-they-can’t-see-you ones, even angry ones. But Franklin is not a budding meteorologist. He’s a dreamer who sees pictures and objects in the clouds and his imagination takes him up there to play in them. It makes this friendless little boy feel less alone and be king of his domain. But one day Scruffy Dog comes along apparently looking for something. Franklin is afraid it is after his clouds and no matter what he does, Scruffy Dog does not leave. Soon it has become part of Franklin’s dreams which annoys him so much that he puts a plan into action that will get rid of Scruffy Dog forever. Which is when he discovers…
This is a gentle and touching tale about a little boy who seeks refuge from the world in his imagination choosing to roam amongst the skyscapes rather than play with his friends – and he does have them even if he doesn’t realise it because they are the ones who have nicknamed him The Cloudspotter. It’s about being happy being alone without being lonely, of seeking joy and solace in your own company until something happens that makes you realise that you can’t be totally on your own in this world. Can you really be isolated with an imagination as rich as Franklin’s? There’s no indication that Franklin is bullied or neglected or unhappy so that he has been driven to his solitary passion – who hasn’t stretched out on the grass on a summer’s day, looked at the clouds drifting overhead and let their mind wander to places far away?
When Scruffy Dog arrives Franklin is concerned that it will take away but the strong message is that friendship always adds – as people we are more when there are more, not less.
McLaughlin has captured an important lesson about the balance and need for both aloneness and friendship with simple text which says much and a light hand using a soft palette that underlines the beauty of the concept and the story. It is calming, almost ethereal and would be a great recommendation for pulling the curtains on the day.