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The Clouds Above Paperback – April 9, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Crane has made his reputation with subtle, heart-tuggingly depressive comics like The Last Lonely Saturday and Keeping Two, so his new project is a delightful surprise: a rip-roaring adventure about a kid named Simon, who skips school one day with his cat, Jack, and climbs a magic staircase leading skyward. There, they encounter a sad cloud named Perch and get mixed up in a conflict involving him, some nasty storm clouds and an irritable flock of birds. Crane's story piles absurdity on delicious absurdity, operating with the peculiarly linear logic of children's storytelling. Everything's exciting, even if it doesn't make much sense, and the dialogue is witty and bubbly ("Don't say fall when we're up so high," Jack tells Simon. "Say autumn"). Crane has a sense of all of his characters' body language—Jack may talk, but his motion and expressions are totally catlike, and the shifting expressions and indistinct, grasping limbs of the clouds are exactly what clouds would look like if they had body parts. The book is a joy to look at—Crane's loose, gliding lines burst with character, and his compositional gifts make every panel worth contemplating on its own. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From The New Yorker
After heroically escaping his beastly teacher, Simon and his cat, Jack, enter a dream world that only a child unburdened by school could conjure. Like many great adventures, this one begins with a passagewayhere a rickety staircaseto a universe situated just beyond the familiar. As Simon and Jack climb, they befriend a helpful cloud, battle heavy weather, trick a flock of belligerent birds, and question their own existence. Crane's drawings are clean, yet full of nuance; his writing is playful and sharp. The artistry is in the detail: Jack's movements are consistently catlike, and the teacher is a mangy figure surrounded by flies, an amalgam of the forces that oppose creativity and imagination.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
please note that the original plans to silkscreen the covers was abandoned because of prohibitive cost.
the book is still a gorgeous object, just not silkscreened.
Simon and his rather fat cat Jack are running a bit late for school one day. His teacher, Missus Poe, has threatened to clobber him with a phone book if he shows up late again, so he and Jack try to sneak in...but they're spotted! They quickly escape before getting clobbered and make their way to the roof where they encounter a magical staircase that takes them to the clouds. There they encounter a sad cloud named Perch, some nasty storm clouds, and a flock of birds that could use some lessons in manners (and perhaps some glasses since they keep calling Jack a dog.) Simon and Jack are off on a wild adventure like no other and before the day is done they help make a sad cloud happy, escape evil clouds, have a grand adventure and make it back to school...where perhaps Missus Poe might learn a thing or two.
To me this is just the perfect blend of whimsy and slightly dark humor to a storyline that makes it just right for all ages. The style reminds me a lot of the "Wayside School" series that I remember reading growing up and of the classic comic strip Calvin & Hobbes with that sense of daydreaming and wonder that we all have (well most of us have) growing up. That's what this story captures so well, those moments when we're bored and don't want to have to do or obey the rules of reality, but instead have a chance to let our imaginations run wild and free. Who wouldn't want to try to cheer up a sad cloud or take a staircase into the unknown? Crane's story is perfect for the young and old and everyone in between. And if you don't get at least one chuckle out of it you might need to get your pulse checked by your doctor.
I think my favorite thing about the layout of this book is that there is only one illustration per page, which just helps sell the story a bit more to me. Instead of trying to cram multiple panels on one page the reader gets to focus on the details and colors of just one panel. And what panels they are. Crane's artstyle to me is reminiscent of older style comics and illustrated books, such as Where the Wild Things Are. The design of the characters with their simplistic, yet expressive faces are easy to capture the readers attention. The color palette chosen to me is reminiscent of something from the 60's/70's with the slightly faded neutral colors. Overall excellent.
Like I mentioned above this book has quickly become one of my favorite books of the year. Everything just works absolutely perfectly and that sense of wonder, that sense of exploration is something that we can all relate to and bring hope to an otherwise boring day. I'd highly recommend this little book to everyone and it should have a spot on your bookshelf.
I showed this book to quite a few people, from family members aged 7, 10 and 12, to college students and various adult friends and acquaintances, and all were charmed, for a wide variety of reasons. A wonderful gift book (even a gift for oneself!)