The Cloud Thief

The Cloud Thief

By Author / Illustrator

James Nicol



Age range(s)



Chicken House Ltd




Paperback / softback




A gorgeously cosy fantasy novel from the acclaimed author of The Apprentice Witch series and The Spell Tailors - perfect for fans of Studio Ghibli and Diana Wynne Jones.

Mara's village needs more rain. Without it, the crops and animals will suffer. But in a world where clouds are brought and sold, the only way Mara can get one is to steal it. But when is it right to do something wrong? And is she brave enough to take on the cloud makers and their greedy trade?

A spellbinding new fantasy from the acclaimed author of the Apprentice Witch trilogy and The Spell Tailors, set in a unique, magical world, where clouds are made, bought, and sold.  For fans of Studio Ghibli and Diana Wynne Jones - with an eco twist! Explores important themes such as climate change, animal rights and inequality in an engaging child-friendly and accessible way.

Find out more from author James Nicol in this short video, and read his Q&A on ReadingZone



Withering-on-the-Sand-Sea, like many other villages, is dependent on cloud deliveries from the Cloud Factory for its survival. With rising prices and smaller clouds, Mara and the other villagers are finding life harder. Worried about Old Bern, who is suffering from the Thwart, Mara overhears a conversation which suggests he might be cured by a piece of cloud. Determined to help, Mara sets off on a quest to the Cloud Factory where she finds things are far more complicated than she thought…

In The Cloud Thief, James Nichol has created a story which not only offers brilliant world-building and endearing characters, but also plenty to think about. It is thoroughly enjoyable and sure to be as popular with teachers looking for that perfect class read as it is with children choosing for themselves!

Mara intends to steal a cloud from the Cloud Factory to help Old Bern, creating an initial dilemma about whether doing the wrong thing for the right reasons can be justified. Once she sees what is happening to the clouds at the factory - how they are imprisoned, how they are treated - she finds herself faced with yet more questions. The villagers need the water the clouds produce, but does this justify the pain and suffering the process causes?

James Nicol skilfully challenges the reader to question the arrogance and greed of humans and look for better solutions which are kinder to all. On her travels, Mara meets Eban, who lives in the Cloud Factory, and gradually a firm friendship develops between them although each has their secrets. Both are very likeable, relatable characters, with good hearts and good motives, who don't always get things right, but show determination and courage. Brume, the cloud, is bursting with personality - and I can't help but hope that there will be more adventures set in this world! An excellent read!

304 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 9+


The Cloud Thief is a gentle fantasy adventure with a big heart. The story begins in Withering-on-the-Sand-Sea, where rain is in such short supply that the town must pay for clouds to be delivered. When Mara discovers that a cloud might also help cure Old Bern, she sets out to go to the cloud factory to get one.

The rest of the story is full of daring escapades, fantastical creatures and two children who work together to make things right. It's a lovely tale and a clever way to highlight the issues of climate and global water supply.

I would suggest that this could be a lovely KS2 class reader to accompany a topic about rainfall and the weather.

304 pages / Reviewed by Rachel Bolton

Suggested Reading Age 9+


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