Kumo (which means “cloud” in Japanese) is a touching fable written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Nathalie Dion. Kumo wants nothing more than to float in the corners of the sky unnoticed. She prefers to “remain soft and invisible,” but when there’s a problem in the sky and the other clouds are unable to help, Kumo is called upon to do her cloud duty: drift, give shelter, and provide rain. She must face her fear of not being enough and grow confident in all she offers.
At first, Kumo tries to move forward by closing her eyes, but she gets stuck. She has to “pull her fluff together” and carry out her duty with her eyes open to explore the rich landscape of cities, mountains, gardens, and fields.
She encounters a kindred spirit in a daydreaming boy and recognizes that “sometimes dreaming helps.”
When Kumo sees some unfamiliar clouds, she worries they won’t want her around, but she takes a breath and nervously floats over to them. They happily embrace her, and soon other clouds join in their glee, “until there are clouds and clouds everywhere, joining together, becoming the whole sky.”
Just as Kumo delights in belonging, a change in temperature forces the clouds apart, but one of her friends lingers and shows Kumo children’s drawings of hearts and smiling animals on the ground, dubbing them a “love letter.”
Kumo’s duties end for the day with her wafting into a well-deserved “delicate, dreamy sleep,” having learned that both being seen and being unseen can be good.
Dion’s vivid illustrations, inspired by Impressionist paintings, reflect the sky’s expressiveness and do an excellent job of supporting the story and filling in subjective details about the characters, like the daydreamer’s visions of cloud rabbits, cars, and elephants.
Sprinkled with Japanese vocabulary, Kumo will impart a new appreciation for clouds and show readers how it can sometimes be frightening to step into the world, then reassuring them that others are willing to help when we overcome our bashfulness.