Cloud Boy by Marcia Williams
|Cloud Boy by Marcia Williams|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Sophie Diamond|
|Summary: An ultimately moving tale of friendship. A brave story for children.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 208||Date: April 2019|
|Publisher: Walker Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Angie and Harry are best friends, almost-twins and next door neighbours. They have been inseparable their whole lives, until Harry's headaches become so regular he's taken to the hospital and has to stay there. Angie is annoyed at Harry for being poorly, their treehouse, Artcloud, has just been completed and they're supposed to play in it together, except Harry can't come out to play anymore. Angie's Grandma comes for an extended visit, and she always takes Angie to see Harry and reads them her letters from her time as a child in Singapore. It's a difficult time, and Angie must gather all of her resilience and bravery to be the friend Harry needs.
I'm really in two minds over this book. On the one hand, it's moving, brave and thoughtful, and on the other it feels very basically written and a bit unrealistic. I'll start with the first point though. I think Williams does a really good job of capturing the way children know and understand more than you think. No one actually tells Angie what's going on until really late in the book but they didn't have to. I think she also captures Angie's feelings with painful accuracy. She feels deep, complex emotions which come out as anger because she's not yet mature enough to unpick them. From that perspective, William's was incredibly skilful. The friendship between the children was moving and the story in itself is very brave. So brave that I'm not sure I would actually recommend it to children. I feel as though the joy of children's fiction is escapism and boundless possibility and this book brings home real, silent horrors. But that's just me.
Grandma Gertie was an interesting character. She started her visit to Angie's family because a piece of a quilt she knitted as a girl while in a prison in WW2 , Japanese occupied Singapore, was being displayed in a museum. She stays to be with Angie, and she spends time reading Harry and Angie the letters she wrote to her kitten while she was in the prison. (At the end of the book, I read that these accounts are actually based on true stories). These letters were actually my favourite part of the book. While I have a problem with the idea of writing to a kitten, there was enough material in those letters for a book on its own. I found the horrors and the stories so moving. I also think that Williams has written them well and in a way that will seem approachable to children. A big problem I have with this part of the story is Harry and Angie are always desperate to hear the next letter and I think this is a bit of an unrealistic way for children to behave.
The book itself is written in diary entries by Angie, with Harry's occasional input. I don't love this style but I think it was a wise choice for this kind of story because it kept the pace up and doesn't dwell in the detail. On the other hand it means that there are a lot of exclamation marks! It's just a bit too much and I think it's quite possibly talking down to your audience. I'd love to hear what a child thinks of this book.
I'm not the intended audience of this book and this book isn't to my taste stylistically, but I do think in essence it is a good, accessible story. I found the ending especially moving.
A story on a different subject matter but one which is highly enjoyable for adults and children alike: Defender of the Realm by Nick Ostler and Mark Huckerby.
You can read more book reviews or buy Cloud Boy by Marcia Williams at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Cloud Boy by Marcia Williams at Amazon.com.
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