Cloud Town and the Basement Librarian, a guest post by Daniel McCloskey
The library was next to the town’s two jail cells in the damp basement of our tiny brick police station. If it was up to me, I would have avoided the entire building for the duration of my childhood, but my father was a children’s book author and my mother was in school for library science. And besides, that was where we went to buy our pool tags to go swimming in the summer.
The library was dreary and smelled funny, but my problem was more fundamental than that. Reading hurt my eyes, my brain, and my feelings. I was what you call a reluctant reader. I’m sure you see kids like me all the time. I thought struggling to read made me stupid. But, stupid or not, I still loved stories, so there were some things in that library that could trick me into practicing my least favorite/most humiliating activity. Those things tended to have dragons or spaceships on their covers. My mom searched shelves and recommendation lists for books to get her reading-resistant kid excited, usually on interlibrary loan, since our town’s collection was small, even if you counted the volumes stored in the abandoned shoe factory down the road.
She ordered a combination of print and audiobooks because I had trouble falling asleep. I still do. And since my parents needed sleep themselves, they let me put a little cassette player by my pillow to fill my head with big friendly giants instead of whatever worries buzz in children’s heads at night.
The town librarian managed to move her collection to a slightly larger room in a building with windows, but bigger changes were coming. I’m not sure about the order of events, but by the time I was in middle school there was a massive fundraising effort for the library and the librarian got in a serious car accident.
She survived but was unable to work. The library was largely run by volunteers for six months. A lot of money was raised. Land was donated by the family that owned the battery factory across from the pool, and when the town bought an old barn-turned-plumber’s-shop, local contractors donated time to oversee the renovation of what would be a spacious sunlit bastion in the center of town. My mom took over as director of that library and did her best to serve the needs of anyone who wandered in, including kids like me who needed a little—no let’s be honest, a LOT of help to get going. She shared my favorite books to excite other kids who struggled with reading. Some of the first graphic novels I ever read were in that library, though at the time the books were either a little too grown-up for me or were Garfield.
Since I’m a guest here at the Teen Librarian Toolbox, it may not surprise you that I went on to get a BA in Writing, and eventually wrote and drew a graphic novel for teens and tweens, Cloud Town. It comes out tomorrow, April 26th, 2022. I am very proud of it, and so is my (now retired) librarian mom, which kind of brings me back around to the point.
I’m talking to you about my town where the quiet of the library was occasionally interrupted by the sound of bars slamming shut in the other room because I wanted to talk about how librarians (like you) are appreciated by slow learners (like me). That is to say, not always at the moment.
I’ve been reflecting on this unique time in my life, where I’ve been given a chance to entertain and excite kids in schools, bookshops, and libraries all across the country. I wrote and drew a book about a weird working-class town and put a giant house-smashing cyborg on the cover. I made it for kids like me. Kids who can explain what’s going on in the middle of a movie they’ve never seen before, but still need someone to read The Giver aloud to them… again. And as I’ve been reflecting, I can’t help but notice there are a lot of people I didn’t properly appreciate at the moment.
Like the woman who worked day-in and day-out in a windowless basement to hold open an opportunity for me to learn. Our town librarian who, after being forced to retire due to injury, came back and volunteered with my mother and continued hand stacks of books about dragons to young readers year after year. Or my mother, who spent hours Yahoo-searching and then waiting as her dial-up connection struggled to load images, just to see what these new “graphic novel” things were all about, back in a time when the only online recommendation for teens put The Dark Knight Returns next to Calvin and Hobbes. Or authors, like my father, who went from school to school giving presentations and reading to classrooms. Or the booksellers who listened and helped me find books I liked instead of just giving me what they thought I should like. Or countless teachers that spent extra time and effort trying to get me up to speed with the rest of the class.
My life has been full of people like that, people like you. And I suspect that your life has been full of people like me. There might be a young me that pops into your head right now. We’re often memorable and probably a little frustrating, so please let me apologize on our behalf. We might not recognize the work you’re doing for us now, but I promise it matters to us. So let me just say, on behalf of myself and all of the kids like me, “Thank you.”
Thank you for all you do, and all you put up with. Thank you for pushing us and thinking of us. You are changing what is possible in our lives, what we can imagine, and what we can do.
And also, could you please put Wings of Fire on hold for us?
If you’d like to learn more about my struggles with reading and writing I have a free six-part mini-comic up on the Comic’s Beat website (you might want to show the young me this as well):
To give you a sense of the style and pacing of Cloud Town, here are a few extra pages that never made it into the actual book. I hope you like them.
Cloud Town is now available wherever fine books are sold (or lent).
Account holders can find Cloud Town on Edelweiss and Netgalley
“Weirdly and unexpectedly wonderful.”
I do author visits and Zoom presentations and so does my father. There’s information about that on my website at danielmccloskey.com/
My father’s website is heymccloskey.com/
Wholesale/Store Owner Portal:
Free making-of comic on Comics Beat
About Cloud Town
An exciting middle-grade graphic novel about best friends, giant robots, and monsters from another universe!
In Dan McCloskey’s debut graphic novel, best friends Pen and Olive live in Cloud Town, an impoverished community on Floating Island, a mysterious landmass that drifts above the earth and happens to sit dangerously close to the Rip—a tear in the fabric of the universe. No big deal or anything.
While Pen is brash and brave, Olive is quiet, kind, and also fearful of bullies at school. That is, at least until the day they are nearly squashed by a Care Corp Storm Catcher, a giant android built to protect Cloud Town and the rest of Floating Island from Hurricanes, monsters that travel across the Rip. It isn’t the event itself that changes the girls’ relationship. It isn’t the fear of death that drives them apart, or the questionable decision-making that leads Pen to drag Olive into the cab of the crashed robot. It’s the fact that Olive can move the 90-foot-tall machine and Pen can’t. Care Corp recruits Olive to train as a pilot, so that she can protect Floating Island when the next attack comes. It’s a role reversal, for which neither of the girls are prepared.
McCloskey’s original art style shines in this wild adventure—it sets the tone for a story that is not only filled with fantastic monsters and mad science, but also the journey of two friends growing up and growing apart in a border town on the edge of the possible.
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication date: 04/26/2022
Age Range: 10 – 14 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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