Upon opening A Cloud in a Jar, this reviewer let out an audible gasp at the deep blues and blacks of the midnight sky and crashing ocean that saturate the pages with edge-to-edge colors. Across the endsheet, a mysterious, cluttered cityscape collides with itself.
A Cloud in a Jar’s first stanza will hook readers as two intrepid kids and one less intrepid cat set off in a boat to bring rain (via a captured cloud) to a lovely seaside town of Firelight Bay, where they have everything but rain. The three adventurers make their way across the water to fulfill their mission aided by their wit, a coat full of useful items, and a little bit of the fantastic. But success might look a little different than they anticipated.
Aaron Lewis Krol’s rhyming pattern is vaguely reminiscent of both Dr. Seuss and Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee.” A departure from rhymes traditionally aimed at children, Krol’s verse has an elevated, sophisticated feel that is further enhanced by eloquent alliteration, poetic similes and an intelligent vocabulary. This entertaining, not quite tongue-twisting read-aloud pulls you along like waves toward an unknown shore.
Carlos Vélez Aguilera’s fantastic and energetic multimedia art is an endless feast for the eyes and an invitation to explore. The dark and imposing oceans and skies are just the right amount of scary. Intricate details such as lightning over the city, prints on a handkerchief and the aforementioned cloud in a jar will keep readers scanning the pages. Aguilera captures attention and evokes emotion throughout: We feel the alarm in the eye of a stranded whale, the hostility and chaos in a flock of aggressive birds, the electricity of a storm over water and the rush of diving far below the waves into safety.
A Cloud in the Jar has everything: clever narration, a straightforward message about bravery and determination, and brilliant artwork. This tale of innovative adventurers is engrossing and a true delight to read out loud.