The Man in the Clouds

The Man in the Clouds lives up a mountain and shares his treasure–a beautiful painting–with all the people from the village below. Those whose lives are touched by unkindness and cruetly are especially moved by the painting, finding comfort in its promise of a beautiful world that does not know pain and suffering.

One day, a stranger comes up and tells the Man in the Clouds how much his painting is actually worth. Bit by bit, this changes how he perceives his art and begins to think of it in terms of monetary value. In fear of his precious painting being stolen, the Man in the Clouds puts locks on his doors and chases people away. Finally, he is all alone, then finds out that his painting has lost all its beauty.

He destroys the painting, opens his doors and windows, and discovers the real beauty lies outside.

Related: Europe, Germany, Picture Book, Primary (ages 6-9)

One thought on “The Man in the Clouds

  1. Crawford & Freedman says:

    Kathleen: I was looking for books on bullying when I first encountered this book. And yes, there is a connection to that topic, but what I really saw in this book was just how someone from the outside of a community can influence how you view the world around you. The story begins with an old man who lives in the mountains and welcomes villagers into his home to gaze upon his painting of the world from the view of his mountaintop. People in the community who come to visit are a bit different. One day a stranger makes the journey up the mountain to view the painting and puts ideas of grandeur about the value of the painting into the man’s head. From this point, the man in the clouds becomes suspicious of all viewers and begins to see the faults of all who have been coming to his home.
    Lauren: He is so easily influenced by the person who says his painting is worth something. The parable doesn’t work for me. One thing that bothers me at the beginning is that everyone who comes up the hill to see his painting views the world in which they live as “gloomy and ugly.” Then we find out that all of the people who come to visit him are outcasts of one sort or another – either unbalanced, disabled, or shunned. That is except for the man in a business suit and hat who convinces him that he must protect his investment, i.e., the painting. So he refuses to let anyone visit anymore.
    Kathleen: Greed took over his way of being and he completely mistrusted the people who he once trusted and had accepted as exactly who they were.
    Lauren: From my perspective, the story doesn’t hang together. Is the man in the clouds supposed to represent God? He appears out of nowhere, builds a house on the top of a mountain, and spends each day looking at a painting of “…what it must have looked like when the world began.” The God parable works for a while because the people bring the man small gifts for sharing his painting and making their lives better. The question then is who is the man in the suit supposed to represent? The God metaphor doesn’t fit with this person in it. Why is the man in the clouds so susceptible to the man in the suit? Is it supposed to be about how greed can ruin our lives? Taken at face value, it seems to be a little parable about greed overtaking the man in the clouds. I wish the text were better written. Maybe something has been lost in the translation, but my take is that it doesn’t quite work. There are too many holes in the story.
    Kathleen: From my perspective, the story tries to show how other judgments can change the way you view the world, and if you’re not careful, you can be influenced in negative ways. The old man stopped being friendly when he got caught up in his own greed. But in the end, he realized his need to see beauty around him and made amends to go back to his way of seeing the world.
    Lauren: The age range recommended for this book is 4-7, but what do 4-7 year olds understand about the value of a painting. It would be interesting to read this with a group of young listeners to see what they think the book is about.
    Kathleen: The illustrations are gorgeous. The paintings are magnificently done in soft watercolors. The illustrator used lightness and darkness to tell the story. These shadings were exemplified in the dark shadows for times of gloom, and bright and light backgrounds in happier times.
    Lauren: I agree completely. The illustrations certainly make the book worth looking at.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *