High on but Short
(Thoughts on High in the Clouds
by Paul McCartney, Geoff Dunbar, and Philip Ardagh)
Blogger’s Note: SPOILERS BE WITHIN!
It’s no surprise that, time and again, some celebrities and personalities are turning to writing and of the plethora of genres to write for some of them turn to Children’s Books. While some may challenge and ask the question that can celebrities write a really good storybook, we’re still in some good company with the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis, Whoopi Glodberg, and Julie Andrews whose works have made it onto the New York Times bestseller list for children’s books.
In 2005 Sir Paul McCartney joined this bunch with the release of his first children’s book High in the Clouds co-authored with Geoff Dunbar and Philip Ardagh. This environmental fable concerns Wirral, a young squirrel driven out of his well-preserved forest home by bulldozers into the grimy, sprawling city of Megatropolis where he learned of animals forced into labor by the cruel Gretch with the help of her whip-wielding, right-hand man — or rat — Wrackford. He goes to a quest to find Animalia, a paradise where animals roam free and live in harmony far from the imposing clutches of evil enslavement where Wirral finds himself on a larger undertaking to liberate animals far and wide.
High in the Clouds overall is a funny tale that will somehow delight young audiences. Although I did enjoy Geoff Dunbar’s peaceful nature imagery some of the animal drawings feel to some extent stiff, glossed over with skilled computer rendering and coloring. I don’t know if this is just his style (since this is the first time I encountered his work) though to be honest some of the illustrations do strike me like those storyboards use for pitching in animation movies and indeed I read reports here and there that during sometime this picture book was slated to be an animated film but somewhat plans either stalled or never came to fruition.
The narrator seems playful at first but as it goes along it suffered from a breathless narrative that rambled on and on resulting in a story with characters that tend towards the generic — with a typical love angle to boot. It’s just about telling a story with as little imagination and feeling as possible. I’m no writer just a simple reader who wears that cap with a child’s point of view in mind and I wonder how can this story with a young reader’s short attention span can sustain his/her interest long enough to slog this book through?
My main beef though was near its ending when the inhabitants of the island of Animalia defend their home against the invading nasty Gretch. Wirral, our supposed protagonist does NOTHING during the height of the fight. Wearing my child cap again I imagine as I set out to read his tale that he will be a bigger character by its end, learning life lessons any mother deprived squirrel of his kind will realize and discover, more so as he sees it as his task that he must protect this Utopian island from Grecth’s grubby hands. Whether the exposition on this part was overlooked by the writers or not it pretty much looks to me that Wirral was relegated in the sidelines — giving no account of what he did at all! — offering the chance for Froggy to shine, the supposed side kick of Wirral that aside from doing his part defending the island is also the one who saved Wilhalmina (our supposed protagonist’s love interest) from capture. By golly, this should have been Froggy’s tale after all since the title of the book, for the most part, equally relates to him given that he owns a hot air balloon and that he’s always out there, “high in the clouds”. Wirral, to put it bluntly, is one lousy squirrel.
With laudable themes such as putting a stop to unrestrained global capitalism, pollution and the destruction of the environment as effected by over population, and that sweatshop and forced labor work is a bad, bad, thing, High in the Clouds has potential only it’s short in delivery.