What would you do if a choking, thick, black cloud of pollution covered your home? Would you sit back, worrying, and wait for it to go away and for someone else to sort it out, or would you want to find a solution? In Kyle Mewburn and Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson’s new picture book, Luther and the Cloud-makers, this is the issue that Luther and his family face.
At the end of a wide, green valley lies a secret village, full of laughter and singing…until one day the clouds come. As the clouds gather, turning day to night, Luther sets out to find the cloud-makers and make them stop, before it’s too late. He meets many cloud-makers along the way, but can he convince them to see the error in their ways?
Luther and the Cloud-makers is a powerful story with an ecological theme, about a boy who stands up for what he believes in. It shows children that even one small act can make change happen and make the future brighter. When everyone in his village is sitting around feeling sorry for themselves, Luther decides to do something about the problem and make the cloud-makers stop. It’s a unique take on the ecological and environmental theme that will entertain and educate readers.
The story is full of Kyle Mewburn’s characteristic word-play and he paints a vivid picture with his language. I love the way he describes the air in the valley as ‘so fresh your skin soaked it up like an old, dry sponge dropped in the sea,’ and he describes the pollution cloud as ‘tongue-tingling, nose-crinkling.’ Kyle makes the cloud-makers sound so menacing by using words like ‘rumbling,’ ‘belching, booming,’ ‘roaring’ and ‘crackling.’
Sarah Nelisiwe Annderson’s illustrations for Luther and the Cloud-makers are superb and really suit the tone of the story. I love the way that Sarah has contrasted the colours throughout the book. At the beginning of the book there are lots of bright and vibrant blues and greens to highlight how clean and fresh the village is. Then the oozing black clouds appear and bring darkness to the landscape. When Luther meets the cloud-makers Sarah has used lots of red, orange and black to highlight the danger and evil nature of the cloud-makers and their pollution. When he finally gets to the city, almost all colour has disappeared, to be replaced by grey and black. It’s on the last few pages that Sarah gives your eyeballs a wake-up call. One of the things I really like about Sarah’s illustrations is the way that she frames them and uses different panels on the page. One of my favourite examples of this in the book is when everything goes dark in the village and the animals become confused. This style will certainly appeal to older children who like graphic novels. I’d actually really like to read a graphic novel (or even a wordless picture book) written by Sarah.
Luther and the Cloud-makers is a wonderful picture book to read to children young and old, and it’s a must-have book for teachers.