I'm a Hypocrite...
I HATE books with obvious political messages. In the adult world I am baffled by peoples' desire pay money for books that simply confirm what they already believe.. When authors try to politicize kids books I usually throw a tantrum. One aspect of youth, is that the young don't believe their books are lying to them - if it is written, it is true. A story, a story is true, but politics...one man's truth is another's lie.
But I'm a hypocrite. I'm a hypocrite because I like The Cloud Spinner. It could be argued that the message contained within this charming picture book is not political. Many things could be argued about the book; in fact this book makes me argue with myself. But unarguably, The Cloud Spinner has an obvious message, and I like it all the same.
Here is the story in a nutshell:
A young boy spins cloth from the clouds, he spins himself a head covering for hot days and scarf for cold days, and this is okay because it is just enough. But then the king sees his scarf and wants an outfit made of the same material, he also wants an outfit for his queen and princess as well. So the boy spins the cloth from the clouds for all these outfits, and he uses up the clouds, causing a drought. The princess brings the fancy clothes back to the boy and he spins them back into clouds and everyone is happy even though the princess is now wearing a plain dress.
The story is a philosophical colander. For example what is "enough"? Why is okay for him to have a cloud scarf? Surely if everyone had a cloud scarf the clouds would disappear just as they did for the royal outfits. The boy cannot be the only one who gets a cold neck in winter. But despite the holes, the overarching message, that we should not take from the world what we don't need, is clear.
This is a message that I take to heart. I battle my personal consumerism on a daily basis. Have you heard of Zulily? If you are willing to wait 6 weeks you can have adorable clothes and toys for up to 80% off. Every morning I go shopping on Zulily, I pick out what I want and put it into the shopping cart, and then I talk myself out of it. Oh that item is imported, I bet it is from China, I'm trying not to buy things from China. Think of all the transportation costs that went into that. And if it is only costing you $10 you can be sure that the poor factory worker who made it in China isn't getting a penny for it. Yes that is cute and yes your mother-in-law would love that color but if she really needed it she would have bought it herself and you don't have the money to be buying gifts. Oscar has ENOUGH TOYS... no really, who is it for, you or the kid? You see I WANT STUFF, but I know I shouldn't want stuff. I believe that if I do really want the stuff I should be willing the pay the fair price for it so that everyone (the creator, the transporter, the seller) makes a decent living.I have this idea that we should all be spending more money on less stuff, but it is hard to live by my ideal, especially when the deals are so good. I battle my personal consumerism every day.
The Cloud Spinner tangibly ties consumerism (the kings wants) into the destruction of the world. That is pretty impressive for a kids book. It is preachy, it does have a political message, but I like it all the same. Alison Jay's fantastic artwork doesn't hurt. The pictures are not quite as jaw-dropping as Listen Listen, but they are still mighty impressive. Therefore I think everyone should ignore the message of the book and go out and buy it!