Graphic Novel Review: Cloud Town by Daniel McCloskey

Cloud Town by Daniel McCloskey. Amulet Books, 2022. 9781419749643.

Cloud Town is located near the inter-dimensional rip, which is where the “Hurricanes” (aka giant monsters) emerge from. One recently destroyed Cloud Town High, so all of its students are now attending school in Tinker Town. Olive is not adjusting well to student life there, mostly because of bullies, but luckily her friend Pen is standing up for her while trying to get her to stand up for herself.

Pen has an intense life — she was recently caught shoplifting, her dad has a huge medical debt, and a social worker is looking into her less-than-normal home life. Bottom line is she has to get a job. And an opportunity presents itself one day when she and Olive find themselves near a fight between a Storm Chaser (a giant robot with a half-human pilot) and a Hurricane. The Chaser goes down. Olive and Pen seek shelter from the monster inside the cockpit. And Pen, despite the impossibility of the move, thinks she can use her skateboarding abilities to pilot the robot. It seems like she might be right. (Minor spoiler: they save the day and she’s offered a job and becomes a bit of a celebrity for piloting the Storm Chaser. But that doesn’t last long, and the truth of which of the girls can actually pilot a Storm Chaser soon tests their friendship.)

I love books that use black and white and one other color, and McClosky’s blue tones really work for his his art, which lives at a beautiful place between cartoony and realistic. The whole story feels immediate and intense, but there’s a lot of humor and heart here to balance that out. Plus: monsters. It reminds me of Brandon Graham’s comics in all the best ways, and I’d recommend it to anyone who is still a little young for his King City books.

Worth noting: I met McCloskey at the American Library Association conference in Washington, DC, where he gave me a copy of this book after we talked a bit. He’s clearly a nice guy who puts a lot of effort into everything he does. Hire him to do a library program if you ever get the chance.


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