CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 37 . . . . May 25, 2018
"Panda loved to draw, dance and play music. Parrot enjoyed reading, building and solving puzzles." So read the opening lines of this colourful picture book.
The left-brain/right-brain differences between the two companions is immediately apparent in the look of the large space they share. Panda's half is bright and chaotic while Parrot has everything arranged in a most orderly fashion and seems to prefer a more monochromatic decorating scheme.
One day, unable to agree on an indoor activity, they go for a hike. It is a beautiful sunny day with a few clouds floating in the sky. But even while cloud-watching, a divide is apparent. Where Panda sees a prancing Pegasus, Parrot identifies a stratocumulus cloud. A sailing ship, a lantern and a phoenix, all images most clear to Panda's eye, are seen as atmospheric phenomena by Parrot: the names altostratus, cumulonimbus and nimbostratus come quickly to his beak.
Panda is enraged that Parrot has no imagination, while Parrot criticizes Panda for ignoring the science. Their bad mood is intensified by the onset of a rainstorm.
The standoff is eventually settled by each friend acknowledging the other's point of view.
On the second-last, brilliantly sunset-lit spread, a huge cloud figure dominates the pages. Parrot asks if Panda sees a stegosaurus in its shape. Panda identifies it as cumulus. Then:
Harmony reigns again.
At the very end of the book, there are two pages of "cloud notes" which offer complete descriptions of all the different types of clouds mentioned in the course of the story.
The text, almost completely in dialogue, tells a tale of a conflict resolved in a sweet and straightforward manner.
Ontario cartoonist Eccles fills the pages with illustrations rendered in clear primary colours that place Panda and Parrot at the centre of the action. The small domed house of the pair would be a child's dream, with sandbox, treehouse, tire swing and trampoline ranged around it. I especially liked the picture (which also appears on the dedication page) of two very different creatures basking happily side by side on the hill. It appears that cloud-watching can be comfortably done lying on a colourful beach towel with hands behind head, gazing up into the blue – and agreeing to disagree about what is up there.
A pleasant story with a bit of scientific information at its core, Stego-Cumulus would be a good addition to a primary school or public library picture book collection.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children's librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.
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