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The Cloud Artist: A Choctaw Tale Book Review & Activities

Gazing at the clouds – watching them move, shift, and create beautiful art in the sky.

Many of us have experienced this, but what we haven’t experienced is being able to create the art.

That special gift belongs to the Choctaw*, shared in the Native American tale The Cloud Artist.

The Cloud Artist

The Cloud Artist (Hoshonti Holbvttoba Inchunli) is a bilingual picture book, written in English and translated into Choctaw.

Author Sherri Maret and illustrator Merisha Sequoia are Oklahoma Choctaw who, while working on this book, discovered that they are distant cousins!

Maret heard this tale from her Choctaw grandmother many times and now shares it with you in this beautifully illustrated book.

* Choctaw:  Native Americans who originally occupied what is now the southeastern United States (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi). Many Choctaws were forced to flee to Oklahoma in the 1800s along the Trail of Tears. Most Choctaw people speak English. Some, especially elders, also speak their native Choctaw language.
The Cloud Artist

Disclosure: We received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes; however, all opinions are our own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, we receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

The Cloud Artist: A Choctaw Tale

Leona, a young Choctaw girl, grows up learning about the plants and animals of her surroundings. She builds a strong connection to nature, and one of her favorite activities is lying in the grass and watching the clouds in the sky. One day, Leona discovers her very special gift of being a cloud painter – something the Choctaw elders had spoken of but had not seen in generations.

Leona’s gift expands to being a true sky artist as she learns to tell stories in the sky, entertaining young children and the elders of her tribe with her fingers (paintbrushes) and the sky (canvas).

One day, Leona gets discovered by a man from a traveling show and is offered a silver dollar to perform her cloud art for his audience.

“The weight of the silver dollar felt good in her pocket as Leona watched him walk away.” Discuss this sentence, analyzing Leona’s feelings at this point in the story.

The first night of the show goes very well; however, the next night, there is an event that causes Leona to flee the carnival. The following day, Leona bravely returns to the carnival. She explains to the traveling man why she can no longer paint for him and returns the silver dollar.

“There is not enough money in all the world to make me return. Cloud art is meant to be shared, not sold.” Discuss this sentence, analyzing Leona’s choice, and comparing it back to the earlier quote from the story when she was offered the silver dollar.

The tale ends with Leona becoming a great-grandmother, watching her great-granddaughter lift her hands to the sky and …

The Cloud Artist Discussion Topics

  • discovering your hidden gifts
  • discovering the gifts of our ancestors
  • preserving and celebrating those gifts
  • sharing your gifts with others, giving laughter and happiness
  • recognizing and supporting others’ gifts
  • recognizing and accepting when something isn’t what you thought and handling the situation with grace
  • highlighting a young and strong female character in a multicultural picture book
  • staying true to oneself
  • empowering kids to make their own decisions
  • celebrating the circle of life, the gifts and traditions that are preserved, handed down, and treasured for generations to come

The Cloud Artist Follow-Up Activities

Print worksheets from the author that include sequencing, summarizing, test prep practice, creative writing, and lots more!

The Cloud Artist book activities
The Cloud Artist book activities

Figurative Language 

Review the use of similes and metaphors as a literary technique for comparing two things.  

  • A simile uses the words “like” or “as” to make a comparison.  The little girl is as cute as a kitten. They fought like cats and dogs.
  • A metaphor compares two things that aren’t alike but do have something in common. Life is a rollercoaster. You are my sunshine.

Ask students if this quote from the story is an example of a simile or a metaphor: “As all parents learn, the years flew by like clouds on a windy day.” Discuss reasoning and meaning. Reread the story and look for examples of each type of comparison.

Sample answers: News of Leona’s gift traveled like dandelion seeds on the wind. (simile) /  Leona watched a line of fluffy clouds walk across the blue sky. (metaphor)

Choctaw Nation


  • Primary Theme Park offers great information, videos, experiments, book suggestions, and a fun cloud art project.
  • Check out cloud language activities, cloud science, cloud art, cloud snacks, cloud songs, and more at Preschool Express. (Don’t let the name fool you, the page includes great ideas for all elementary grades.)
  • Head outside with a sketch pad to record your own cloud art observations.

Purchase the book here. (The author also offers to fill school orders for signed books.)

What a wonderful addition to any home, classroom, and/or school library!

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