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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Cloud Forest by Victoria Turnbull

'A story will help,' said Umpa. 'Stories make everything grow.'

A child's Umpa teaches them to read and to follow the words, out the garden gate and all the way to the sea. Every day is a new adventure. They visit castles in the air, feast with friends and sail away on the rains. But then one day, Umpa isn't there.

Cloud Forest is an interesting book. The cover and first few pages didn’t appeal to our early primary school children to start with. But, persevere with the story and the magic will blossom.

This moving tale from author and illustrator Victoria Turnbull is both powerful and important. More of a sophisticated picture book, it speaks of the power of books to bring people together, and to help us remember loved ones when they’re no longer with us. It is a gentle book that tells the story of Umpa and his adored grandchild, and the worlds they create together through a shared love of stories.

It feels like a deeply personal story and one that Turnbull cares a lot about.

Her illustrations are simply beautiful, full of rich detail and imagination. The muted golden colour that dominates the pages, gives the book a dreamlike quality, which reflects on the growth of the character’s imaginations in the words. It’s almost like looking back on old photographs, which, once again, harks back to the story. Little details in the illustrations, like the paper birds the pair make together and the ever-evolving clouds, become an integral part of telling the story.

Cloud Forest is an important reminder of the way stories can evoke memories. It would make for a beautiful bedtime story for younger readers to share with the adults in their lives. The importance of literacy, and of intergenerational relationships, cannot be underestimated. Turnbull passionately conveys this, alongside the power of books in bringing people together.

Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Murdoch Books, RRP $24.99


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