When it’s ok to have your head in the clouds: The Cloudspotter by Tom McLaughlin

posted in: Tom Mclaughlin | 7

cloudspotterI’m sometimes called the Bread-Bike-Book Woman by people who recognise me in the community but don’t know me by name; I go everywhere by bike and my basket is nearly always full of either baguettes and or books.

Shop assistants will ask what I’ve borrowed from the library, or let me know when the fresh bread is cheap at the end of the day. It’s a sobriquet I’m quite at ease with 🙂

Tom McLaughlin‘s The Cloudspotter is actually called Franklin, but because of his passion for watching the sky and imagining what he can see high above him, everyone calls him after his hobby.

To some, the Cloudspotter might appear isolated; Indeed, he doesn’t have many friends.

But what he does have is bags and bags of imagination. He can look at the sky and imagine stories galore in which he’s a hero, and adventurer or an explorer. Simply put, he’s very happy with his head in the clouds.

One day, however, Scruffy Dog arrives on the scene. The Cloudspotter doesn’t want to share his adventures and poor Scruffy is sent packing. But could it be that Scruffy wasn’t trying to take anything away from Franklin? Perhaps he was trying to offer him something? Something kind and full of heart, to make adventures and exploring, on earth or in the sky, even more enjoyable?

Tom McLaughlin’s quiet and thoughtful story is a lovely celebration of the power of imagination to provide comfort and joy, as well as solace. The Cloudspotter also acknowledges that it’s quite OK to be a bit different, to daydream. It shows how when friendship comes knocking it’s about doubling – rather than halving – fun and games through sharing.

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The summery, soothing, pastel palette enhances the story’s gentle and charmingly whimsical feel. McLaughlin’s style makes Franklin feel like a cousin to Oliver Jeffers’ boy in How to Catch a Star.

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All in all a delightful book to encourage us all to be open to spotting more adventures in the world around us.

After sharing The Cloudspotter with my girls, I prepared somewhere comfortable to do a bit of our own cloud spotting…

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…we lounged around and saw lots of scenes like this…

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…then we went over to the paint station…

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…and started covering large sheets of paper with various shades of blue, mixing in PVA as we went. The large sheets of paper were strips of wallpaper lining. The PVA (glue) was mixed in so that we could start sticking “clouds” onto our skies as soon as the paper was covered:

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We used a mixture of cotton wool and toy stuffing for the clouds, exploring the different ways these materials stretch and becoming wispy.

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Whilst our sky scenes dried, it turned out that cleaning up after painting was almost as much fun as creating our art!

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A few hours later, our skies were ready to go above beds, enabling hours of relaxing cloud spotting. Here’s what the kids can now see as they lie with their heads on their pillows:

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What can you see in our clouds?

Music to spot clouds by could include:

  • Blue Clouds by Elizabeth Mitchell and You Are My Flower
  • Baby Cloud by Caspar Babypants
  • Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell


  • Other activities which could be great fun to try out alongside reading The Cloudspotter include:

  • Making hot air balloons! I’d like to try these ideas over on Project Kid.
  • Creating atmospheric (geddit?) cloud mood lighting – this project from DIY for Teens looks fun.
  • Having edible sky and clouds for dessert. YUM YUM.
  • Reading my review of another of Tom McLaughlin’s books – The Story Machine.

  • Do you have a nickname like Franklin or me?

    Wishing you and yours many happy hours of cloud spotting, creating stories with all the amazing characters you imagine!

    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher.

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    7 Responses

    1. I love the idea of having your own cloud collage above your bed! The Cloudspotter looks like a beautiful book, I love the illustrations, especially the coloured beach huts 🙂
      Catherine recently posted..A Gold Star for George by Alice Hemming & Kimberley Scott

      • yes, the coloured beach huts are great – the perspective, the colours. All just lovely!

    2. I used to love staring at clouds on car journeys as a child. I think we might have a look at this book as one to take on holiday so we can cloud spot on the beach.

    3. Our library here (in NYC) does not appear to carry ANY books by this author, even though it recently posted a favorable comment about his book The Story Machine. Do you know that one? I am a get-it-from-the-library-first-to-see-if-it’s-worth-the-money kind of person. If I were to buy only one of his books, which would you recommend?
      Even in Australia recently posted..Zeroteenth Birthday Book Quiz, Part 3!

    4. Thank you!
      Even in Australia recently posted..Zeroteenth Birthday Book Quiz, Part 3!

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