Jane Jolly (text), Sally Heinrich (illus.), Papa Sky, MidnightSun Publishing, Oct 2017, 32pp., $27.99 (hbk), ISBN: 9781925227291
Papa Sky is from the author/illustrator team that brought us the 2016 CBCA award-winning One Step at a Time. This distinctive picture book for children (approx. 4-8) tells the story of a being who spends his time twisting and turning the clouds in his home where the earth meets the sky. One day, the wind blows Papa Sky down to the ground, where he meets the creatures that dwell there. They are very concerned that Papa Sky is not where he should be, doing what he normally does – without him we are nothing – and work together to return him home.
Jane Jolly tells this story with wonderfully lyrical turns of phrase, such as:
Gentle noses twitched. Whiskered ones watched. Then soft paws poked and tender tails stroked.
Sally Henirich’s illustrations complete the feel of the retelling of an ancient legend, with a Zeus-like Papa Sky frequently pictured amongst fabulous billowing white clouds.
The endpages’ non-fiction content elaborate on the importance of cloud forests; a topic that is very subtly referred to in the story. The front pages feature a map showing the locations of the world’s cloud forests. The back pages show clouds shaped like each of the animals from the story, which are real-life cloud forest dwellers. Interesting facts for each species give readers a fascinating insight into cloud forest fauna. The fact that some are described as rare and extinct conveys a quiet, yet powerful, environmental message.
The fiction/non-fiction combination in Papa Sky would make this book an interesting mentor text in the classroom; especially if paired with a regular expository non-fiction book about habitats, or cloud forests in particular.
On a personal note, Papa Sky reminded me of many happy hours spent looking up at the sky as a child, searching for animal shapes in the clouds. I hope that, in addition to its benefits as an entertaining and informative read, Papa Sky also encourages children to venture outside to look for cloud-animals of their own.
Reviewed by Julie Murphy