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Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Page history last edited by Laura Brown 13 years, 4 months ago

Plot Summary

     Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, by Judi Barrett and Illustrated by Ron Barrett is a well known children's storybook.  It has sold over three million copies since its publication in 1982.  Children all over the world have become familiar with this book.  It brings humor, fantasy, and imagination into classrooms throughout.  Children have the chance to imagine what a town like Chewandswallow would be like to live in. 

     The book changes from reality to fantasy.  It starts off as any other regular day, the family sitting down for breakfast, but turns into this magical world outside of that.  This world, is unlike anything else.  Food actually falls from the sky three times a day; for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The residents of Chewandswallow,a small town with extremely unusual weather patterns, carry their plates, cups, glasses, forks, spoons, knives, and napkins because they never knew what kind of "weather" they were going to encounter.



Textual Elements


     Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs begins as an ordinary day, being the ‘reality’ aspect of the novel.  It tells of a family having breakfast then leads to the grandfather tucking his grandchildren into bed at night.  This is when he makes up a bedtime story to his grandchildren which is a tall-tale.   His story takes the children for a wild adventure.  He tells about a small town, Chewandswallow, whose weather conditions consist of the town’s meals for the day.  There is not a day that the residents need to go grocery shopping.  In fact, the weather for the next day is forecasted on the television.  Every time the people in Chewandswallow went outside they took their plates, utensils, and cups so they were prepared for the weather.

          Food would fall from the sky for each meal of the day.  The weather would bring orange juice, hamburgers, baked potatoes, and Jell-O.  The people of Chewandswallow are happy and content with their situation, until the weather takes a turn for the worse.  The meals consisted of Gorgonzola cheese for a WHOLE day, overcooked broccoli and weird combinations of food suck as brussel sprouts and peanut butter with mayonnaise.  One day it only snowed cheese, which made the town smell. One day there was a continuous cloud of pea soup fog, nobody could see where they were going and their other meals got lost amongst the heavy fog. Another day a storm of salt and pepper blew in, making everyone sneeze. 

     Sooner or later the conditions get so bad that the Sanitation Department cannot keep up with the weather.   A huge pancake has fallen on the school, and meatballs are damaging houses.  The town is a mess and the people decide they need to leave. The townspeople build boats out of humongous stale bread and take off for a new land. They arrive in a small town off the coast and decide to settle there.  Happy to be out of the mess, they have to adjust to their new lifestyle of buying their food from the grocery store and actually prepare it themselves.


     The setting starts off in the kitchen of a home.  It then shifts to the children’s bedroom where the grandfather tells a bedtime story.  The magical story then takes place in a small town called, Chewandswallow.  It is an odd town in the fact that the weather conditions are like any other.  



     Throughout the novel there is not a main character.  The story begins with a young girl (whose name is never mentioned), her brother Henry, their Grandfather, and their mother.  However, the context of the story mainly takes place in Chewandswallow where nobody is ever identified within the city.  Nevertheless, there is an illustration of a man who is a resident in Chewandswallow who is the same man as the grandfather who is telling the story.  Names are never used throughout the book except for the brother Henry who is identified when grandpa accidentally flips a pancake on his head while cooking. 

          Although the characters are never fully introduced or kept throughout the book the story does not need to cover this.  The book is about a magical town where strange things fall from the sky.  It does not need to include the specifics of the people in the town.  Instead, Jodi Barrett did a good job by including the town as a whole, who made the decision to abandon Chewandswallow because of the damaging conditions.  They were a town who came together as one because they were different.   The decisions they made were as a whole, therefore the author did not need to explicitly give detail on each person who lived within Chewandswallow.


Point of view:

     The story told is from the young girl’s point of view. Although Grandpa is telling the story most of the time, the reader hears from her voice. For example, on the fourth page of the book she says "That night, touched off by the pancake incident at breakfast, Grandpa told us the best tall-tale bedtime story he'd ever told."  After this we hear Grandpa telling the story and then it switches back to the girl.  The tells the reader that she remembers staying awake for the whole book, remembering a goodnight kiss and then talks of her adventures the following day with Henry and Grandpa.



     The theme of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is weather and human environment interaction.  While the town of Chewandswallow's weather is nothing like normal weather patterns, it shows (both visually and verbally) the reader how the people of Chewandswallow interact with their odd weather patterns and environment.  This book helps students to understand that weather changes constantly and this will help introduce safety tips for severe weather conditions.  Although this book is fantasy and could not happen in real life it is a very good way to bring up elements of nature.  People depend on their environment each and every day.  This book helps to introduce the fact that weather changes and people need to be prepared for the worst of times.  Students are able to see that sometimes people must leave their homes because of dangerous weather conditions and in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, they show just that.  The town leaves Chewandswallow for a new land where they will be safe.  This could potentially be related back to Hurricane Katrina and how people had to leave their homes because of the severe weather.  This book will help children to have a better understanding of such things but in a more magical and fantasized sense.


Artistic Elements 

     The illustrations in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs are comic-style, drawn with black ink and pencil. The book begins in black and white, and once Grandpa starts to tell his story, the illustrations are colored in with watercolor.  Illustrator Ron Barrett does a great job of utilizing the entire page with illustrations.  The pictures expand the story, making it funny and entertaining for the reader.  Each page is surrounded by a white border, and the text box positioning changes from page to page. There are some full bleed illustrations, but the majority is single page. Some pages show more than one illustration or more than one text box, to show a variety of ideas and/or events. While the illustrations are very animated and comic-like, they are also detail oriented and extremely colorful.  The pictures however tell a lot of the story.  For instance the first page, where Grandpa flips a pancake onto Henry’s head, the reader understands that this happened because the picture shows the dog chasing the cat through the kitchen, causing Grandpa to lose control.  As we can see the text not only tells the story but the pictures make the story humorous and more eventful.



Analysis and Critique

    Overall, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is a fun and entertaining book for children.  It helps children explore their imaginations, picturing the different things that are happening in the small town of Chewandswallow.  The author brings the imaginative land to life and we can see this through the pictures changing from black and white to color.  The storybook is aimed for children between the ages of 4 and 8 but it is an enjoyable book for people of all ages. 

     Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs helps one to use their imagination.  Recently this world-renowned storybook was made into an animated movie.  However the characters and storylines are somewhat different, the idea of food falling from the sky is still the main theme throughout.  What children can learn from reading the book or watching the movie are things about the weather.  Severe storms bring danger and harm where slight weather conditions such as rain brings food (in the story) but in real life water to plants.  This book is a very good book to relate with a science activity in the classroom.  It can also be related back to the food pyramid.  Children can determine what foods are healthy or unhealthy for them to eat. 

     I think this book is well written and entertaining.  Bedtime stories can take a child anywhere they want in the world, and this story shows exactly that.  The children are taken to a land where food falls from the sky.  This is unlike any other ‘normal’ story that we hear.  A child must use their imagination to really grasp the humor and excitement that is portrayed in the storybook.





Barrett, Judy. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Illus. Ron Barrett. New York: Alladin Paperbacks, 1978.



Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Sony Pictures Digital Inc., 2010. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. <http://www.cloudywithachanceofmeatballs.com/>.


"Fantasy | Define Fantasy at Dictionary.com." Dictionary.com | Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words at Dictionary.com. LLC. Web. 9 Dec. 2010. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/fantasy>.


"Google Image Result for Http://www.diabetesdiabeticdiet.com/images/food_pyramid.JPG." Google Images. Www.diabetesdiabeticdiet.com, 2006-2010. Web. 12 Dec. 2010. <http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.diabetesdiabeticdiet.com/images/food_pyramid.JPG&imgrefurl=http://www.diabetesdiabeticdiet.com/food_pyramid.htm&h=392&w=493&sz=44&tbnid=GM435a7b2g1a_M:&tbnh=103&tbnw=130&prev=/images?q=food+pyramid&zoom=1&q=food pyramid&hl=en&usg=__mnwvvKchUm5uIG-LX9yQIwm5T7M=&sa=X&ei=XR4FTbH0BI30tgP-z_jjDQ&sqi=2&ved=0CFMQ9QEwBg>.

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