March’s B&N Picture Book of the Month, Once Upon a Cloud, is the stunning debut picture book from Disney Animation Studios visual development artist Claire Keane, who most recently lent her talents to the blockbuster films Tangled and Frozen. Every page is saturated with color, from the deep purples to pale pinks, and the result is a breathtaking visual treat.
The book follows the story of Celeste, a young girl who is trying to come up with the perfect gift for her mother—a conundrum that many children will be able to relate to. As much as they love receiving gifts, kids also enjoy giving them, and finding a suitable present for a beloved family member is a difficult challenge that often feels monumentally important to a little one.
Celeste thinks and thinks about what to give her mom as she sits behind a school desk, brushes her teeth, and takes a bubble bath. She’s accompanied by a silent sidekick: an adorable little brown dog with an expressive face and large pointy ears.
That night, Celeste is in bed, about to fall asleep, when a sparkling gust of Wind blows in and carries her bed out the window. Celeste looks on in wonderment, her dog in her arms. They are swept up into the sky in the Wind’s fantastically trailing hair and beard.
Before long they arrive at a beautiful castle where Celeste is greeted by the Stars, a group of pink constellations shaped like angelic women. The Stars place a crown on Celeste’s head and slip sparkling shoes on her feet as she watches in delight. Then they dance away, leaving the purple and blue-tinged Moon, with a fluffy beard, spectacles, and kindly eyes, in their wake.
The Moon sits Celeste down and reads stories to her until the Sun, a beautiful golden queen, begins to rise. She and Celeste share a cup of tea until it’s time for the Wind to carry her home again.
During her ride home, Celeste thinks about all of the colorful new friends she made during her journey, and she gets an idea for her mother’s gift. She goes outside and gathers a bouquet of flowers with beautiful pink blooms for the Stars, deep blue blossoms for the Moon, and warm yellow flowers for the Sun.
She ties this bouquet with the red ribbon that holds her ponytail so that it contains something of herself—and with that, she knows she’s found the perfect gift for her mother.
Once Upon a Cloud will take children on a magical adventure and shows them how satisfying it can be to give the perfect gift to someone you love. Celeste’s journey is one children will want to go on again and again.