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The Man in the Clouds Hardcover – April 1, 2012
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About the Author
Koos Meinderts (1953) writes songs and poems, books, cabaret and theatre plays for adults as well as children. His books won several awards and one of them was nominated for the prestigious German Juvenile Literature Award.
Annette Fienieg (1959) has illustrated over eighty children's books, often those written by Koos Meinderts, has written. She has won, amongst other prizes, the annual Award of the Dutch Illustrators Guild.
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Top Customer Reviews
I immediately took the book to the art class I teach for elementary age children yesterday afternoon. I read them the story then asked these questions:
1- What would you do with the painting if you were the man?
2- Why did he come to hate the painting?
3- Why do you create art?
4- What is the difference between looking out the window at a landscape and creating a painting of the scene?
5- Would it bother you if someone burned your painting?
As you can imagine... I got some great answers from the kids. I was most comforted when the kids said that they love creating art "just because it is fun." That the enjoyment of the process gives the creation value. Also one smart cookie said that he loves creating art to document the things he loves especially when he knows that those things will change over time. (He wants to remember his grandmother's garden. Sweetness!)
Something about the book rubbed me the wrong way (perhaps the overly zealous anti-materialism that is delivered packaged up in a book ready for purchase), but regardless as an art teacher I found it to be an excellent conversation starter.
The story begins with a man who inhabits a house up in the mountains, among the clouds. He enjoys spending time in front of a painting that is described as having "a landscape so beautiful, so marvelously empty...this is what it must have looked like when the world began." Over a period of time, the man in the clouds welcomes anyone from the village who makes the climb up to visit with him and the painting. Then one day, it all changes. A stranger comes to visit the man in the clouds and informs him that the painting is very valuable and the man in the clouds could sell it for lots of money. From this point, the man in the cloud's thoughts become infected with negativity and he begins to develop a deep mistrust of any visitors, even the old friends who were once welcomed with open arms.
Adults will appreciate the message underlying this book, that once we attach monetary value to things, something intangible is lost, be it a sense of appreciating beauty for its sake, the value of friendship and companionship, and more. Children on the other hand may need some guidance to get to this message. I think my daughter eventually understood what went wrong but I felt it was a bit over her head, and may be a bit too deep for young children. That's not to say this parable, which is emblematic of the times we live in, can't be appreciated. I just think that some guidance might be required in the case of younger readers.