HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Cloudy Skies Over Miami
Author: Susan Wigden
Cover Illustrator: Bruce Wigden
Publisher: Tex Ware, 2010
Related website: www.swigden.com (author)
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading level: Ages 9-13
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Wigden, Susan. Cloudy Skies Over Miami (published in 2010 by Tex Ware, Everett, WA). When you have been around people who are much older than you are, have they ever said or done things which you find hard to understand? For his twelfth birthday, Josh, who lives in Staten Island, NY, with his parents, receives a ticket to Miami, FL, to spend a whole week of winter vacation with his grandparents who have moved there. It will be his first time to fly on a plane all by himself. After getting up early to get to the airport and enduring the indignities of airport security, he gets on the plane and finds that the people sitting next to him are a young woman with her little boy who constantly sings the A-B-C song as loud as he can, though not in the proper order, and is sticky from eating a lollipop.
As the plane prepares to land, the pilot announces, “Cloudy skies over Miami,” which becomes a metaphor for Josh’s experiences there. Not only do his grandparents say and do things which he doesn’t understand, but they want him to do things which aren’t “cool” and even seem embarrassing to him. In addition, who do you think are niece and little grandnephew to Grandpa and Grandma’s best friends, Al and Anna? Grandpa overhears Josh phoning his mother about how awful the experience has been, so he leaves to go fishing with Al on Al’s boat. Later that day, while jogging on the beach, Josh learns that two older men have had a serious boating accident and are in the hospital. Are they Grandpa and Al? Will the skies over Miami ever turn sunny and bright for Josh?
Cloudy Skies Over Miami might be thought of as a coming of age story, and it is one to which most modern middle school age readers can probably relate. Anyone who has ever experienced the “generation gap” will appreciate the emphasis on the need for respect of age by younger people and also for respect of youth by older people. Wigden says in her message from the author, “If you have elders in your family, whether they are grandparents, uncles, aunts, or godparents, they may not always act or talk about the same things as you and your friends. Just remember, you are an important part of their lives, and they will be loving you for a long time. Trust them, talk with them, and share your honest feelings. These are the people who matter most in your life and with whom your memories are created.” I certainly enjoyed such aspects in the book as loving family, connecting the generations through mutual respect, and growing up with an appreciation for grandparents.