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The Cloudspotter

"His real name was Franklin. But everyone called him The Cloudspotter..."

"The Cloudspotter doesn't have many friends. He spends his time, all by himself, spotting not just clouds but adventures in the sky. This way, he doesn't feel so alone. Then, one day, an unexpected visitor appears in his adventures and it throws everything up in the air. Could it be that two cloudspotters are better than one?"

The Cloudspotter, a beautifully illustrated, children's picture book from author and illustrator Tom McLaughlin draws inspiration from clouds and celebrates the power of the imagination and the importance of friendship. We spoke to Tom about tapping into childhood memories, letting the mind wander, and creating shapes and pictures from clouds in the sky.

How did you get into authoring and drawing?

I have dyslexia and I write better than I read. I have good days and bad days, but even the simplest of picture books can be hard to read. I found drawing quite late. I was average at school but suddenly found my thing at GCSE. It’s important for kids to find their thing as we all need an identity. I’m lucky, as when my writing isn’t working, I draw, and when drawing isn’t working, I write. After college I was a political cartoonist for The Western Morning News before going freelance.

Where do your ideas come from?

I spend most of my days drinking tea and dreaming up new stories. If I wasn’t creating I would be miserable. A blank sheet of paper is a wonderful thing. No two ideas come from the same place. Some land fully formed at five in the morning as a picture in my head. Some are just a sense or a feeling. I push myself very hard – working ten hours a day is not uncommon – but it’s important to have time to stare out of the window and come up with ideas.

What was your inspiration for The Cloudspotter?

I wanted to capture the feeling of big skies and isolation. I also love the idea of turning something that isn’t often recognised like cloudspotting into an official hobby or sport. As a little boy in the car I used to watch how clouds move, all the different shapes they make as they change.

What was the biggest challenge in creating The Cloudspotter?

Kids love things they can spot – little secret bits that work the first and twentieth time when you open a book. While drawing lots of clouds that kids could spot, the hardest thing was drawing things that worked as clouds.

What are you working on next?

The next book, about a boy who grows a planet, is already written. Obviously growing a planet is ridiculous but I had an image of a boy with a balloon on a string. I can’t say too much more at the moment but it will be out sometime next year.