Willie is back with his patterned vest, green corduroy trousers, and one green and one red sock. When Willy goes to the park one day he is followed by a cloud. The cloud gets bigger and Willy returns home when he is not enjoying himself as others are. He tries many things to stop the could following him, all with no success. Finally Willy faces up to the cloud and the sun shines once again.
This sounds, simply, like a book about melancholy and depression, and the feeling of impending doom anxiety can inflict upon a person. And it is. But this book, like all of Anthony Browne’s, is a lot more than just that. In true Anthony Browne style, there are many influences from other texts. Readers may recognise Frida Kahlo, the typical William Morris print in Willie’s lounge, and Singing in the Rain. Browne hints at another on his blog, leading this reviewer to learn of a band from the 1960s, My Pink Half of the Drainpipe. I am sure there are others of which I am not aware.
Browne has, as always, used line, direction, frames and colour to full effect, sometimes combining these elements, such as the four frames of Willy across a double page spread.
Postmodern tendencies also appear in Willy the Cloud. Multiple genres, such as graphic novel style speech bubbles and the use of different illustrative styles are present. Multiple readings are possible for a variety of audiences depending on level of understanding and recognition of intertextual influences. Readers may also comprehend the meaning of the cloud in different ways. Those who have experienced depression will pick up on this, while those who have not may feel empathy.
Browne’s work was one of the first I researched while studying for my literature degree fifteen years ago and I have been a huge fan ever since. I have re-read his books many, many times and with each reading find something new. I have found reading Browne’s books to young children even better because they are astute at picking up subtleties hidden by Browne.
Willy and the Cloud is a must for all libraries, and for fans like me!
Thank you to Walker Books for supplying this book for review.