With its cooler but not yet cold temperatures and the promise of multi-colored leaves on the trees, October can be one of the best months to take a bike ride. I think it’s also a wonderful time to read about bicycling, as featured in today’s Perfect Picture Book.
Title: In a Cloud of Dust
Written By: Alma Fullerton
Illustrated By: Brian Deines
Publisher/Date: Pajama Press/2015
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: bicycles, diversity, education, disappointment, compassion
In a Tanzanian village, a little schoolhouse sits at the end of a dusty road.
When the bicycle library arrives at her school, Anna hopes to find a bicycle to ride to and from school, but she is too late to find a bicycle of her own.
Links to Resources:
- Try drawing a bicycle or creating a bicycle with colorful accordion wheels;
- Ride your bicycle to school and back, around a park, or in your neighborhood;
- Learn about Tanzania, the setting of this story;
- Read the Author’s Note to learn more about bike sharing and giveaway programs;
- Discover more ideas in the Reading Guide.
Why I Like this Book:
In a Cloud of Dust provides a window into life for children lacking transportation to and from a rural school in Tanzania. Readers learn that Anna, the main character, does her homework during the lunch break, as her journey by foot to and from school is so long that it’s dark by the time she reaches her home, a home without electric lights. When a “Bicycle Library” visits her school during the lunch break, the other students already have chosen all of these used bicycles. It’s clear that these children are excited about the bicycles and eager to learn how to ride them. But what about Anna? Her disappointment leaps from the page. What does she do?
If I were reading In a Cloud of Dust aloud to a group of children, I think I’d stop at this point and ask them what they’d do if they were Anna or if they were the other children. By including this universal feeling of disappointment at the heart of the story, I think Fullerton broadens the appeal and offers an opportunity to discuss what’s fair or not, how to handle disappointment, and how to be a true friend.
Because Anna overcomes her disappointment with the help of her friends, the story has a happy ending. I won’t spoil it by revealing how she overcomes this disappointment or the solution – you’ll have to read In a Cloud of Dust yourself!
Deines’ earth-toned illustrations transported me to Tanzania and expressed the emotions that the children felt.
A Note about Craft:
Fullerton utilizes spare, lyrical text to tell Anna’s story. By using few words, she enables the illustrations to do much of the storytelling, which added to the emotional appeal for me.
In a Cloud of Dust is a work of fiction based on bicycle lending and give-away programs that help those without access to transportation in places like Tanzania. I think by wrapping the information about these programs in a fictional account that includes disappointment and compassion, Fullerton gives a more complete picture of the importance of these programs to so many people throughout the world.
Visit Alma Fullerton’s website to see more of her works.
See more of Brian Deines’ artwork on his website.
Independent, Canadian publisher Pajama Press “is a small literary press” that “produce[s] many formats popular in children’s publishing across a fairly broad range of genres”.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!