When a book skillfully taps into the imagination of a child, it can break all worldly rules and take readers on a journey out of a dream. Such picture books stand the test of time and are now reaping the benefits of advanced technology that translate them into amazing movie experiences.
Two examples include Horton Hears a Who! and Where the Wild Things Are.
Most recently, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is receiving rave reviews after making its debut on the big screen. The book, published in 1978, originally captured the attention of children.
The story begins with a grandfather’s bedtime story about a curious town called Chewandswallow.
By all accounts, the place looks like quaint small-town America, complete with Main Street, tidy homes, and bucolic surroundings. But three times a day, storms move in like clockwork delivering a strange mix. Instead of rain, sleet, or snow, this sky drops juice, eggs, pancakes, hamburgers, hot dogs, and other dietary objects.
At first, Chewandswallow represents recycling at its best.
Fresh food without plastic wrap and wasted packaging drops onto the plates of townspeople who consume what they need. Excess food is fed to the animals on land and at sea, and the remaining leftovers are placed back into the earth to make rich soil for flowers.
Then one day the once predictable weather system goes off course. Pea soup fog paralyzes the town, bizarre food combinations upset the palates, and a jumbo sized pancake envelopes the school. The onslaught of food worsens, forcing the residents to build boats, (using monster-size toast for the base and Swiss cheese for the sail), and flee to a strange new land.
The new town had a grocery store that sold raw food in packages that required refrigeration (how odd!). When clouds rolled in, wet drops simply saturated the ground. And the people lived happily ever after, never again fearing an attack of edibles on steroids.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs could have easily been written by a child as part of a creative story assignment. This comment is meant as a compliment of the highest order. Of course, the grammar and story sequence is clearly that of an accomplished author.
But it’s the premise itself that feels like the product of a child’s boundless imagination. The book is funny, preposterous, thought-provoking, and action-packed all at the same time, keeping little ones tuned in from start to finish.
The illustrations humorously depict the lives and fate of the sated folks from Chewandswallow. Details galore pack the pages and can practically tell the whole story independent of the text.
If you don’t have a copy, grab a copy at the bookstore or library and snuggle up with a little one to enjoy. Then off to the theatre with a bag of popcorn to see this fantastic story come to animated life!