Marcia Williams, Cloud Boy, Walker Books Australia, July 2019, 208 pp., RRP $16.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781406381214
Harry and Angie are “best friends and almost-twins.” They were born in the same hospital just days apart and have grown up as next door neighbours. Despite having different hobbies and frequently arguing, they love to spend time together in their treehouse, “Artcloud”. Angie is a prolific artist, while Harry is obsessed with clouds. Cloud Boy is an epistolary novel made up of Angie’s sporadic diary entries and letters written by Angie’s grandmother while she was incarcerated in Singapore during World War II.
Angie’s courage (and often defiance) in response to Harry being diagnosed with cancer is believable and poignant. Angie is not an angelic nurse-like supporter of Harry, and Harry is not a jocular high-spirited patient. Rather, author Marcia Williams depicts them as very normal children having understandable—and often unpredictable—reactions to a terrible prognosis. As their parents struggle to know how to best manage the situation, Angie takes matters into her own hands with mixed results.
British English slang is scattered throughout the book which may be a fun learning curve for readers more familiar with Australian or US terms.
Cloud Boy handles the sad and sensitive topic of childhood cancer deftly and is similar in tone to Two Weeks with the Queen (Morris Gleitzman, 1990) and The Fault in Our Stars (John Green, 2012), but with content suitable for younger readers. Cloud Boy is a great choice for confident and mature readers aged 11+, but parents and teachers should ensure they are comfortable with the themes and plot prior to children reading.
Reviewed by Jessica Dowling