Samantha Tidy (words) and Susannah Crispe (pictures) – Cloudspotting

Windy Hollow Books, Australia, 2023

Samantha Tidy’s textual story and Susannah Crispe’s visual story come together perfectly in Cloudspotting (Windy Hollow Books, Australia, 2023). This is a gentle tale of a father and daughter who, while the rest of the family still sleeps, go out crabbing in their boat in the dark chill of early morning.

With the daylight come the clouds, a source of wonder and imagination as shapes are defined into a fire-breathing dragon, an elephant, a hippo and a tiger. Crabs are caught and taken home to cook for a family lunch and then the parents have a siesta on the couch.

As an adult reader, this story fills me with a sense of nostalgia, a deep yearning for things lost to much of the busy modern world – time for weekend family lunches, for afternoon sleeps and cloud gazing, for precious hours of simple activity with a parent and dunking biscuits in tea.

A child will, however, delight in the easy comradeship and unspoken understanding of this father and daughter, the passage from darkness to light, the dreamy worlds of cloud and sea, in watching the magic of crabs turning from blue to red when cooked – illustrated in the striking endpapers.

Samantha Tidy speaks to us in the voice of the young tousle haired daughter. It is clear, lilting, simple text that perfectly evokes the atmosphere of anticipation and wonder for the natural world and for the shared experience of boating and all it entails. The habituation of ‘Dad doesn’t have to tell me, but he always does’ so beautifully expresses the preciousness of this relationship.

Susannah Crispe has captured not just the characters of this family but also their emotions – the excitement of pushing out the boat, the anticipation of casting the nets, the luxuriating companionship of cloud gazing, the contentment of a weekend lunch together.

Her pictures are full of details to delight and tell their own story – mugs with hearts printed on them, books strewn over the window seat, seagull s squabbling over scraps, newspaper to wrap the crabs.

Thank goodness that things apparently lost can be found again in literature.