Something About the Sky (Hardcover)

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Something About the Sky By Rachel Carson, Nikki McClure (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Rachel Carson, Nikki McClure (Illustrator)
On Our Shelves Now
1 on hand, as of May 24 3:00am
(childrens nonfiction)

Staff Reviews

Back in the early months of the pandemic, Olympia artist and writer Nikki McClure was approached by Orion magazine about illustrating portions of a script Rachel Carson wrote for television more than sixty years ago. Of course, she immediately agreed, making arrangements with Carson’s estate to create a picture book titled Something About the Sky, which was published last month.

Rachel Carson is known for her classic book, Silent Spring, which revealed how humans were poisoning Earth and creatures were dying as a result–most notably from the pesticide DDT. The alarm she sounded was crucial for us to hear during the formative years of the environmental movement.

In words and art the author and illustrator, having never met, help us understand that Earth has two oceans: one of seawater below and one of vapor above. Both carry and nourish life. Both move in currents, often with similar patterns shaped like waves, eddies, or ripples. Carson explains the water cycle and cloud types accurately and poetically. Fog, rain, snow–stormy or gently fleeting–are constantly reforming with no end nor beginning.


Nikki McClure worked with what she had on hand during a time when shopping for art supplies was not an option. In those long quarantined days she watched the sky then painted stacks of paper in watercolor blues and grays. She read Carson’s works and looked through photos of her at her seaside cabin. Then with McClure’s recognizable cut-paper technique and minimal drawing, she put the weather on the pages. The result lets the reader feel the words.

The book includes a note from the illustrator, explaining how she approached the work and recommendations for further exploration. I recommend it for readers of any age, especially those interested in natural science and art.

Something About the Sky brings together Carson’s scientific knowledge and lyrical writing with McClure’s flowing illustrations. Their collaboration shows a love for the essential clouds: “[Clouds] are the cosmic symbols of a process without which life itself could not exist on earth.” This book of art and science is one to pore over. It will remind you to love the sky.

— Amy Halvorson Miller


Cut-paper wizard Nikki McClure is a brilliant steward for the words of a pioneering environmentalist in this wondrous ode to clouds—and the scientific “language of the sky.”

Rachel Carson once wrote, “It is not half so important to know as to feel.” What do we know about clouds? There are three basic types: stratus, cumulus, and cirrus. Some are fleecy and fair-weathered while others portend storms. But clouds are more than pretty or ominous backdrops. They’re the vehicle of water between sea and land, land and sea, in a cycle without end or beginning. They are the writing of the wind on the sky, a language all their own. An illustrator note explains the origins of Rachel Carson’s shimmering essay—previously unpublished in its entirety—and the process of adapting it to picture book format, as well as how the author of Silent Spring forever changed the way we think about science and progress. Bringing the soft edges of clouds and the natural world to vivid life with a new, more fluid approach to her signature cut-paper technique, Nikki McClure inspires true emotional engagement with the world we all share. An antidote to “get your head out of the clouds,” this art-meets-science tribute to curiosity and wonder is a gift for daydreamers and nature lovers of all ages.

About the Author

Rachel Carson (1907–1964) spent most of her professional life as a marine biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. By the late 1950s, she had written three lyrical, popular books about the sea, including the best-selling The Sea Around Us, and had become the most respected science writer in America. Her book Silent Spring helped shape a powerful social movement that has altered the course of history.

Nikki McClure is a self-taught cut-paper artist renowned for her calendars and her highly acclaimed picture books for children, including Old Wood Boat. Outspoken about living well and responsibly with the earth, she makes her home in Olympia, Washington.

Praise For…

Carson’s quietly eloquent essay offers a stirring mix of natural observations and insights. . . . the illustrator creates misty, evocative cloudscapes behind and above views of seas and mountains in various weathers and seasons, as well as spare glimpses of human figures diverse in terms of age, with skin the color of the page, mostly with inward gazes. Overall, the effect is solemn, stately…bound to leave readers in a meditative mood. Contemplative and stirring—definitely for wonderers.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Images inspired, per a creator’s note, by the ever-changing forms of cloud and sky engage with the text’s precision while adding warmth and vividness via scenes of people experiencing the world’s wonders. It’s a fitting jumping-off place from which to contemplate “the writing of the wind on the sky”—and continue noticing the natural world.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

This previously unpublished essay from “poet of science” Carson (1907–1964) is paired beautifully with McClure’s cut-paper and swirling ink-wash art. . . . [Caron's] thoughts are as wonderfully ruminative as one might expect from the environmental scientist and nature-writing icon. . . . In an endnote, McClure explains the origins of Carson’s essay, how the book project came about, and the thoughtful and resourceful process she used to create the illustrations.
—The Horn Book (starred review)

A fascinating collaboration from a distance of nearly 70 years, McClure’s sensitive visual realizations of Carson’s evocative words create a deeply satisfying wholeness, where science is conveyed through poetic words and art reveals the majesty of the natural world. This informative and inspiring picture book is—as McClure comments in her thoughtful afterword about Carson’s writing—beautifully “calm and clean and comforting.”

Product Details
ISBN: 9781536228700
ISBN-10: 1536228702
Publisher: Candlewick Studio
Publication Date: March 12th, 2024
Pages: 56
Language: English