In a Cloud of Dust Reviews

Publishers Weekly

homecover-in-a-cloud“Through the fictional story of a Tanzanian girl named Anna, Fullerton (Community Soup) and Deines (Bear on the Homefront) reveal how bicycles can change the lives of children whose families lack access to motorized transportation. Opening on ‘a little schoolhouse [that] sits at the end of a dusty road,’ Deines shows Anna working indoors at a desk. ‘There will be no daylight for schoolwork by the time she reaches home,’ writes Fullerton. A truck from a ‘Bicycle Library’ unloads several bikes, but none are left for Anna; undeterred, she helps her friends learn how to ride their bikes (‘She directs Samwel around the obstacles/ Left/ Right/ Stop!’) and shares one of them with another student so both of them can get home quickly. Soaked in warm golds and oranges, Deines’s oil paintings glow with a sense of promise as the children race around the schoolyard on their bikes. Fullerton says quite a bit with few words in her verselike prose, and a detailed author’s note discusses the vital role bicycles play in communities across Africa and supplies information about bicycle donation organizations. Ages 4–up. (Sept.)”

Kirkus Reviews

“In Tanzania, a bicycle lending library provides joy for village schoolchildren. When the truck full of bicycles arrives at Anna’s school, there aren’t quite enough for hardworking Anna to get one, at first, but she helps her friends learn to ride, and on their way home, she gets her turn….The truck comes from the local bicycle repair shop, and it’s labeled ‘Bicycle Library.’ True to the spirit of the loan, the bikes it brings are shared and offer both entertainment and relatively efficient transportation. Oil paintings in rich shades of orange show the children surrounded by clouds of dust….[T]hey show well, and the simple text reads aloud smoothly, making the book a good introduction for a discussion of different yet similar lives. An author’s note, appropriate for adults sharing this story with children, explains the need for bicycles in southern African countries and provides the names of organizations that work to fill that need. A nice addition to primary-grade ‘values’ collections. (Picture book. 5-8)”

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Booklist

“There’s much excitement in a Tanzanian village when the bicycle library arrives in a cloud of dust. There are bikes for all the children except Anna, who arrives too late. Her disappointment is tangible, but rather than feel sorry for herself, she helps her friends learn to ride their new bicycles. She supports, balances, encourages, and accompanies her friends as they twist and turn, skid and slide, churning the dust into clouds of red and gold. Ultimately, Anna’s generosity is reciprocated by a friend who is as kind as she is. Notable for its message of putting others before oneself, the story is buoyed by illustrations that shimmer with movement, light, and feeling. Shades of ochre, amber, and pale gold radiate from each two-page spread, conveying through oil paint the warmth and grittiness of this village and its children. An author’s note explains the role of and constant need for bicycles in Africa.”
—Amina Chaudhri

School Library Journal

“Living in a Tanzanian village means lots of walking. Each day, young Anna makes the long trek to and from her schoolhouse from her home. So when a truck shows up from the bicycle library, it means a great relief for the students. Except they run out before Anna gets one. Disappointed, but excited for her classmates, she receives a gift of kindness in the response of her peers. In a Cloud of Dust highlights the daily challenges faced by many in rural villages throughout Tanzania. An author’s note at the end highlights more information about bicycle libraries and their impact in places like Africa…VERDICT Additional purchase for educators wanting to highlight compassion and awareness of different social structures.”
—Megan Egbert, Meridian Library District, ID

Quill & Quire

In a Cloud of Dust offers a glimpse into the daily struggle of a young Tanzanian girl. Anna has along trek to and from school. While her classmates relax on lunch break, she works on her assignments, knowing it will be too dark to study by the time she walks back home. When Anna misses the arrival of the travelling bicycle library and isn’t able to claim a bike for herself, she swallows her disappointment and eagerly helps her friends master their new two-wheelers. Her generosity of spirit is repaid by her friend Mohammad , who shares his bike. Barrelling down the well-trodden path home, Anna revels in her speedy flight, and ‘kicks up her own cloud of dust.’

Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award winner Alma Fullerton’s inviting text is spare and poetic. Lines appear staggered across the page in quick bursts that reflect the children’s excitement and energy: ‘Anna runs beside Farida. / She bumpety-bumps/ with Samwel. / She helps Leyla careen. / She twists and turns with Irene.’

Brian Deines’ radiant oil paintings glow with orange and yellow background washes. An aerial view of Anna standing by herself after all the bikes have been claimed highlights the girl’s initial isolation and disappointment. The warmly realistic images of Anna helping Leyla learn to balance, and Prisca laughing after taking a tumble, nicely capture the children’s indefatigable spirits.”

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The National Reading Campaign

“A dusty road leads to a schoolhouse nestled under a canopy of giant trees. A little girl stays in to do her homework at lunch, because by the time she walks the long way home, it will be too dark to see. Thus we are welcomed gently into Anna’s world in rural Tanzania, where the big event is the arrival of a heap of bicycles on a truck, in a cloud of dust. Although Anna is too late to get her own bike, she happily helps her friends learn to ride theirs, and soon she is bumping home on the back of Mohammed’s bike. And then he does something unexpected, and the joy at the centre of this story unfolds.

In A Cloud of Dust by Alma Fullerton is a simple, quiet book that resonates with all the ways that Anna’s life is different from ours. The modest gift of a bicycle makes a profound change in her daily life, and a note at the back of the book gives information about the many bike charities that bring bicycles to Africans. But the bicycle is only the jumping-off point for what this book is really about: the spirit of community that shines through as Anna and her friends help each other.

Brian Deines’ drawings are saturated with colour and full of movement: his wobbly bicycle riders struggle to keep their balance and you can almost see the wheels spinning when one of them tumbles to the ground. This glowing book is a wonderful introduction for young readers to life in a culture where many things are different, but some things are exactly the same.”

Resource Links

“In a Cloud of Dust demonstrates a challenge that affects a wide range of children and adults living in developing countries such as Tanzania – transportation.

Anna, like many children in her country, has miles to travel to get to her school, but no transportation to help her. One day, a bicycle library truck stops outside her school dropping off bicycles to some of the students there. Unfortunately, Anna does not receive a bike, but she helps to teach other children how to ride and gets a ride in return. To Anna’s surprise, when her friend, Mohammed, stops the bike at his house, he offers Anna the bike to continue her journey onward. Anna thanks him and tells him that she will pick him up on her way to school the next day. This simple gesture helps Anna to arrive home before dark and offers her reliable transportation in the future.

Told in simplistic language in free verse, this story helps children understand some of the dilemma that exists for many children in developing countries today. An excellent resource for learning about other cultures, In a Cloud of Dust inspires children to learn about life in developing countries and about organizations who help folks by providing bicycles to children and adults, so they can go to school or their jobs, and also help to create jobs in communities. Highly recommended for classroom investigation and discussion and learning about good citizenship.”
—Sharon Armstrong

CM Magazine

“…Brian Deines has often used his illustrative talents to depict stories of North American First Nations life, but here his rich oil paintings, with their solid figures and warm palette, are very much up to the task of giving readers the sense of life in Africa. The joy of the children who have received a life-changing gift leaps off the pages. Ontarian Alma Fullerton, who is the author of a number of works including picture books and young adult novels, has provided a spare text that touches neatly on all the key points of the story.

Although not designed only as a teaching tool, In a Cloud of Dust would be useful in a classroom discussion of how children live in surroundings not familiar to Canadian children. There is an end note about bicycle libraries, which really are functioning in various places in the world, and some of the organizations which make them happen.

Highly Recommended.

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The Montreal Gazette

“A simple, straightforward text illustrated with oil paintings by Toronto’s Brian Deines, In a Cloud of Dust nevertheless teaches a powerful lesson about sharing, and can be used by parents and teachers to show children there are others in the world who are less fortunate—and who would benefit from donated bicycles. An author’s note at the end of the book lists some organizations that distribute bicycles to African nations and other developing countries.”

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Foreword Reviews Best Children’s Books of Fall 2015

“Anna is doing her homework inside during lunchtime since her walk home takes far too long, so she is the last to arrive at the pickup truck that is delivering charity bicycles to her school, and she misses out. Rather than moping, Anna helps her friends learn to ride. Mohammad returns the favor by letting her take his bike the rest of the way home since she has the farthest to go. The dusty Tanzanian countryside and the children’s joyous faces, rendered realistically in Deines’s artwork, shows how simple acts can transform a child’s life. Ages four and up.”

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Oregon Coast Youth Book Preview Center

“…The bright, appealing illustrations carry the joy that the bicycles bring to the students through gold and orange washes, though specifics of the Tanzanian countryside are often lacking.

Verdict: Highly recommended for preschool, elementary and public libraries to increase awareness of life in different cultures and parts of the world.”
—Jane Cothron

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Omnilibros

“Glowing oil painting in golds and oranges spotlight the simple, uplifting story about sharing. An author’s note highlights more information about bicycle libraries and organizations that distribute bikes to Africa and other developing countries.”

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“…In a Cloud of Dust provides a glimpse into the lives of children who must travel long distances for the chance to attend school. Alma Fullerton’s text is modest in its quantity but weighty in its simple message of compassion and support, similar to her A Good Trade (Pajama Press, 2012) and Community Soup (Pajama Press, 2013) picture books…Brian Deines’ illustrations are incomparable, effectively portraying the dusty and lengthy distances over Anna must travel to school. Because of his reliance on oils, Brian Deines’ illustrations are highly evocative of the landscape and mood of the remote areas of Anna’s Tanzanian home, providing less detail and more ambiance than other media might provide, particularly in the brush of the illustrator of Bear on the Homefront (Innes and Endrulat, Pajama Press, 2014).

In the hands of Alma Fullerton and Brian Deines, the story of Anna and her travels to and from school are never lost In a Cloud of Dust.

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