Saturday, January 21, 2023

Review: Dark Cloud by Anna Lazowski


Genre: Children's 4-8
Published: May 2, 2023
Pages: 32

Written with compassion and care, a thoughtful story about a little girl who visualizes her depression as a way of learning to cope. Abigail has a dark cloud. It follows her everywhere. It can be a ball of worries, a swirl of fog or a long shadow. But it's always with her, getting in the way of things. Her dark cloud makes the other children distant and messes with her grand jeté during ballet class. It even takes away her appetite for birthday cake. Then one day, Abigail begins to figure some things out about her dark cloud. Like how it's not always the same size. How she can trap it in a sandcastle at the beach. And how, sometimes, she can even step away from it and feel the sunshine on her skin. In this sensitive picture book, symbolic imagery perfectly captures how depression can look and feel. Anna Lazowski's lyrical text together with Penny Neville-Lee's expressive drawings provide young children with a way to understand and talk about their own feelings. The repetition in the text and the visual narrative pull readers in, making this an excellent read-aloud pick to spark discussions about feelings. Neville-Lee's art uses soft, muted colors, with lightness and color gradually added as Abigail moves from feeling overwhelmed by her depression to learning how to live with it and even find relief from it. Reviewed by a child psychologist, this book is a great choice for teaching social-emotional learning, critical thinking and character education lessons on perseverance and resilience.

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

This story gives great examples of how depression can feel and affect you. It shows a girl trying to do the things she enjoys, but because of depression, they're just not any fun, and they stop her from being depressed. I like how the book doesn't suggest that depression just goes away. Instead it shows that some days are worse than others, and some days can seem like good days as if the depression doesn't exist, but it's still there waiting. 

The illustrations were very grey and dark, which is expected with a title like this. Towards the end, they had some fun pops of color, depending on how the depression was affecting Abigail at the time. It was a really nice touch. 

I don't think I'd want to read this book too many times because it hits a little close to home (and I'm not in a great place right now myself), but at the same time I'd want my kids to have a better understanding of those feelings than I had when I was their age, so I'd probably power through if they were requesting it. Getting help now might be easier for me if talking about my feelings was encouraged more when I was younger. 

Overall I give this book 4.2 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Anna Lazowski wrote her first picture book for a class assignment in the sixth grade and has been creating stories ever since. Now an award-winning radio producer whose journalistic work has been published in various newspapers and magazines, Anna is also the author of T. Rexes Can't Tie Their Shoes. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with her husband, kids and dogs.

Penny Neville-Lee spent her earliest years drawing and making before studying for an MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art. She is happiest when surrounded by pencils, chatting to her two children and coming up with ideas for beautiful books. She lives with her family in Manchester, United Kingdom.

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