David Wiesner's Sector 7
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
A boy with his head - and everything else! - in the clouds
There's a bit of an uprising at the Cloud Dispatch Center for Sector 7.
A playful cloud assigned to the Empire State Building has whisked an artistic young boy through the skies and actually spirited him into this secret Grand Central Station equivalent for our rainmaking friends.
Administered by serious-minded humans, the Dispatch Center (serving the North Atlantic coast and a fair portion of the ocean beyond) is responsible for sending clouds (free-spirited by nature) where they need to be, and in the particular shape they need to be in.
And that's the thing. It can get a little old for a fun loving cloud to be told he needs to confine himself to nimbostratusness on a day when he's feeling a lot more cumulonimbus.
Or when he'd rather look like a lionfish.
You see, a David Wiesner cloud can look like anything it wants to. Infinitely self-malleable, it's the darn humans at the CDC who insist that they take conventional cloud forms.
Mustn't stray from expectations!
What they really could use is a young artist to sketch different forms they could take. Wouldn't that be fun?
David Wiesner's Sector 7
The portion of the plot I've just sketched out in words was conveyed almost entirely in pictures. This wordless picture book conveys its story without narration, though some of the settings bear signs - like "Cloud Dispatch Center" - that help a young reader determine what precisely is going on.
Wiesner proves definitively that a picture is worth at least a thousand words. This ingenious bit of storytelling is conveyed entirely visually and with a heart that words would struggle to do justice to. The clouds that appear as characters clearly have personalities of their own. They seem a happy-go-lucky species feeling quite put upon by the conformity being forced upon them.
Wiesner won a 2000 Caldecott Honor for this brilliant effort. (He's won the medal itself three times, for Flotsam, The Three Pigs, and Tuesday. Tuesday also features flight, and would be perfect for younger kids.) Many make the case that he's the premier author-illustrator in children's books today, and I can't disagree. Review continues.
Genius is a word I don't use lightly, but in David Wiesner's case it applies. He informs us that the book grew out of a visit to the Empire State Building on a "zero zero-visibility day."
I wish my failed sightseeing excursions were so productive!
Sector 7 features a theme, seen again later in Flotsam, wherein a single human child is treated to a one-of-a-kind experience granting him exclusive access to the magical inner workings of the world at large. It's the perfect formula for touching a child's innate sense of wonder.
More Caldecott honorees.
More of Steve's reviews.
Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.