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 (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.
Disclosure: We received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes; however, all opinions are our own.
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 laying 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 (paint brushes) 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 own 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!
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 of Oklahoma
- Read more Choctaw legends, myths, and stories at Native Languages of the Americas.
- Learn how to count to 10 in Choctaw with this Native Languages worksheet.
- 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!
Multicultural Children’s Book Day (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.
Fill your bookshelves with books that celebrate diversity. The 2018 Book Review Linkup includes more than 400 reviews of books that represent a variety of people, cultures, traditions, religions, perspectives, and languages. It is an amazing resource to refer to all year long.
Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.
Current Sponsors: MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board.
2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors
PLATINUM:Scholastic Book Clubs
BRONZE: Barefoot Books, Carole P. Roman, Charlesbridge Publishing, Dr. Crystal Bowe, Gokul! World, Green Kids Club, Gwen Jackson, Jacqueline Woodson, Juan J. Guerra, Language Lizard, Lee & Low Books, RhymeTime Storybooks, Sanya Whittaker Gragg, TimTimTom Books, WaterBrook & Multnomah, Wisdom Tales Press
2018 Author Sponsors
Author Janet Balletta, Author Susan Bernardo, Author Carmen Bernier-Grand, Author Tasheba Berry-McLaren and Space2Launch, Bollywood Groove Books, Author Anne Broyles, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Eugenia Chu, Author Lesa Cline-Ransome, Author Medeia Cohan and Shade 7 Publishing, Desi Babies, Author Dani Dixon and Tumble Creek Press, Author Judy Dodge Cummings, Author D.G. Driver, Author Nicole Fenner and Sister Girl Publishing, Debbi Michiko Florence, Author Josh Funk, Author Maria Gianferrari, Author Daphnie Glenn, Globe Smart Kids, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Author Quentin Holmes, Author Esther Iverem, Jennifer Joseph: Alphabet Oddities, Author Kizzie Jones, Author Faith L Justice , Author P.J. LaRue and MysticPrincesses.com, Author Karen Leggett Abouraya, Author Sylvia Liu, Author Sherri Maret, Author Melissa Martin Ph.D., Author Lesli Mitchell, Pinky Mukhi and We Are One, Author Miranda Paul, Author Carlotta Penn, Real Dads Read, Greg Ransom, Author Sandra L. Richards, RealMVPKids Author Andrea Scott, Alva Sachs and Three Wishes Publishing, Shelly Bean the Sports Queen, Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Gayle H. Swift Author Elsa Takaoka, Author Christine Taylor-Butler, Nicholette Thomas and MFL Publishing Author Andrea Y. Wang, Author Jane Whittingham Author Natasha Yim
We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.