Dark Cloud by Anna Lazowski

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The picture book Dark Cloud by Anna Lazowski and illustrated by Penny Neville-Lee (Kids Can Press, May 2023) introduces children to the concept of dark emotions (sadness and depression) with the symbol of a dark cloud. With tinted grayscale illustrations representing sad moments and bright colors showing moments of happiness and understanding, Dark Cloud provides a unique format for parents and children to discuss these hard-to-deal-with feelings.

This analogy of the cloud is a common metaphor for the challenges of depression. The child at the center of the story, Abigail, doesn’t know why the cloud initially appears, and “The rain made everything damp.” Sadness and depression do bring that feeling of being about to break down in tears, and so for me, that correlation to “dampness” worked so well. Further, although in the first pages of the book Abigail doesn’t seem to have any respite from the dark cloud (represented by a scribble above her head as well as the muted grayscale), as her father begins to see her issues and as Abigail learns to deal with the dark cloud, we see splashes of color begin to appear.

The yellow in the hairbow that her father puts in her hair. A bit of blue, in a picture book, as she sits in the library with the cloud above her. The bright green ice cream on her cone as we see her cloud “trapped” in the sand castle she’s walking away from. And, finally, a rainbow garden of colors as she and her family visit a garden.

My seven-year-old daughter and I read a digital review copy of Dark Cloud. (The downside of this is we did not see the two-page spreads, but rather each page by itself.) She liked it and we read it again a second day. I asked her, that second time, what she thought about Abigail having a cloud and not knowing why. She said, “But she has a friend that has one too.”

There is a page with another child sitting with Abigail. This is what the text says,

She had a flutter of butterflies.

But so did someone else.

He sat beside her on the bench

and didn’t have to say a word.

I’m so glad this stood out to my daughter! Already at her young age, she’s shown some signs of anxiety and stress. We discussed how there are always other people around us to help us and understand. Abigail does not have to be alone and neither do we.

My daughter did not want to talk about the book or clouds anymore. But she loved revisiting the last scene, where Abigail visits the flower garden.

Sometimes she steps outside it . . .

And feels the sunlight on her skin.

As a person who has struggled with clinical depression my entire life, I am extra sensitive to helping my own children learn to address their own strong feelings and learn to cope with the depression that will most likely affect their own lives at some point. This book seems like a great option for early discussions around these very real sometimes inexplicable feelings. When I was pulling out of my depression during and after the months of distancing in 2020, I turned on music one day and heard “Here Comes the Sun.”

Little darlin’, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter
Little darlin’, it feels like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun, doo-doo-doo-doo
Here comes the sun, and I say
It’s alright

Little darlin’, the smile’s returning to their faces
Little darlin’, it seems like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun, doo-doo-doo-doo
Here comes the sun, and I say
It’s alright

This is just how this book made me feel: gorgeous sunlight!

I read a digital review copy.

Reviewed on April 27, 2023

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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