May 08, 2018

The wonders of weather

illustrated by Elly MacKay
Review by

Though slight in story, cloud-watchers everywhere may learn something new about weather folklore in this transfixing picture book.

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In her new book dedicated to “weather watchers” everywhere, author and paper artist Elly MacKay illustrates some folksy phrases related to climate, opening the book with a note about how people once looked to nature for clues about the weather. A family acts as the narrative thread that pulls all these sayings together, as they head out in their boat to fish, camp and enjoy their time outdoors, as depicted by MacKay’s appealing 3-D paper vignettes.

Some of the sayings are more well-known (“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight”), while others are obscure (“Cats leap about and chase their tails, to warn of thunderstorms and gales”). But Red Sky at Night closes with a spread explaining each saying. MacKay’s carefully constructed dioramas steal the show: These are illustrations rendered via paper and ink, which are then staged, like a series of small theaters, and then lit and photographed. The lines of her cut-paper illustrations are delicate, and the colors are warm and inviting. She captures the natural world with eloquence, even when the threatening clouds cause the family to sail home.

Though slight in story, this transfixing picture book will teach something new to cloud-watchers everywhere.


Julie Danielson conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.

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Red Sky at Night

Red Sky at Night

illustrated by Elly MacKay
ISBN 9781101917831

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